By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia
"Fall is fabulous for most plants," said Georgia gardening guru Walter Reeves, a retired University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent and an author and radio and television show host.
"There are several reasons why it's better to plant in fall," he said. "The most important reason is soil temperature. Roots grow best when the soil is warm, between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit."
Fall-planted trees, shrubs or perennials get several weeks of vigorous root growth to be ready for winter and for years of healthy growth. However, if you plan to plant evergreens, Reeves says, get busy.
"Early fall is a great time to put in evergreens like Leyland Cypress and hollies," he said. "It's better to plant them early rather than late. Their foliage is tossed about by winter winds, and if they don't have good root development, they get too dried out. If there's a class of woody plants that needs planting early in fall rather than later, it's the evergreens."
Put in perennialsSeptember and October provide ideal temperatures to get perennial plants off to a good start.
"Spring planting is usually successful," Reeves said. "But root growth is limited by cold soil. In years with a long, cool spring, like the one just past, the soil didn't warm to 55 degrees until May. If we had a dry summer, the inadequate root system of spring-planted shrubs and trees might have led to their death."
Fall is also a good time to divide day lilies and irises. "If you can remember where your daffodils were and you can find them," he said, "now is a good time to move them."
Clean and fertilizeSome fall cleaning may be in order, too.
"Dead limbs you see now are truly dead and won't be coming back," Reeves said. "It's guaranteed never to be leafy again, so go ahead and prune and remove it."
Reeves also says it's almost time to fertilize the lawn. "Winterizer lawn fertilizers are best applied six weeks before frost," he said. "Georgia's annual first frost is generally mid-November, so winterizer fertilizer should go out between the middle of September to the first of October."
As the days cool, it's not only fun to garden, but cheaper, too.
"Nurseries have plants that have been growing in the same containers all season. The plants will be bigger and will make a more immediate visual impact," Reeves said.
"Prices may actually be lower as nurseries make room for Christmas trees or reduce inventory for the slower winter months," he said. "The day lilies won't be blooming and the hosta may look tired, but rest assured that their half-price tag makes up for their temporary lack of beauty."
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)