We love spring planting. The excitement of getting veggies and new landscape plants in the ground, cleaning up the yard, and finally being able to play outside again- it’s all so lively. But, let us not forget that we Minnesotans have another prime planting season and we are looking at it right now.
Planting at the end of summer and into fall is a superb choice for many plants. The cooler whether gives them a chance to settle in without the intense heat and blazing summer sun and the cooler weather tells plants to focus on roots (great for establishing new plants). It’s also easier on gardeners- after all, it’s quite pleasant to be outside tending plants when it isn’t hot as Hades.
Here’s a look at what to consider when you plant later in the season:
Look for Improvement
Late season planting is a great opportunity to think about where there is room for improvement in your landscape.
Do you need fall color? Yes! You do! What about evergreens that provide shelter for wildlife and winter interest for you? Go for it! Should you add plants that have seeds and berries for the birds? Yep! Is there somewhere that could use more height or structure? Time for a tree or shrub. Nary a problem exists that can’t be solved by a plant.
Mulch is a great idea in general, but it is especially important when planting at the end of the season. Mulch protects the root zone from temperature fluctuations and helps retain the moisture that is essential for winter survival. About 3” of mulch is great for trees and shrubs. Just make sure to keep mulch an inch or two away from trunks and stems. Don’t forget to protect trees from animal damage with a tree wrap too!
Perennials planted late in the season also benefit from mulch or a layer of fallen leaves applied after they’ve gone dormant. Just be sure to pull the leaves back from the crown when new growth emerges in spring.
If you plant evergreens like arborvitae, a snow fence, burlap wrap, or some other kind of protection can help minimize winter burn. This is especially useful if you’re planting in an area that is particularly exposed. Getting these types of trees planted earlier is also a good idea- don’t wait until October.
Your plants won’t use as much water as the weather cools down, but it is critical that you don’t neglect them. Make sure to continue watering until the ground is frozen. Proper hydration is key to insulating the roots and minimizing winter burn.
Don’t skip your spruce and pine! Evergreens in particular benefit from regular watering because they continue to lose moisture from their needles after deciduous plants have abscissed (fancy word for dropped) their leaves. Follow the handy watering guide we provide at purchase and you’ll be sure to have happy plants in spring.
You can add some extra insurance by leaving the top growth on your new plants, so resist the urge to cut them back in fall. Along with mulch and hydration, leaving the foliage on top helps protect the crowns and get them through winter happily. Wait to clean up and cut back old foliage on perennials until spring when new growth starts showing, and wait until temperatures are consistently in the 50’s if you want to help out the bees and butterflies. Shape up shrubs in late winter or spring if needed. Wait to shape your spring bloomers like lilacs until after they’re done blooming.
Exceptions to this rule:
Do deadhead spent blooms on newly planted hydrangeas before first snowfall. Do remove afflicted foliage from plants prone to diseases like rust or powdery mildew and clear it from the area.
Now get out there and take advantage of this perfect planting weather. You’ll be overjoyed when you see your new plants wake up next season!