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Fall Planting Required for Spring Flower Show

It takes more than April showers to bring May flowers. Often, it takes fall planning.

"Most bulbs and perennials do better if planted in the fall," said Wayne McLaurin, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

"If you don't plan now and you try to plant them in early spring," McLaurin said, "they will grow a little and try to bloom. But you won't get nearly the show you would if they had all fall and winter to grow a root system."

Perennials and bulbs planted in the fall will spend the late fall and winter developing hearty root systems. That will help them support the stress of blooming in the spring. Those planted in spring will give some blooms, but after a year of development will give a bigger show the following year.

The same is true for spring-blooming trees.

"Trees such as dogwood and magnolias form buds the previous season," said extension horticulturist Jim Midcap. "For the best success for root development, fall planting is preferred. Early spring is acceptable.

"Crape myrtles, however, bloom on new growth," Midcap said. "Getting the trees established for summer blooming makes fall planting essential."

Midcap encourages planting all trees in fall.

"Plant broadleaf evergreens, such as magnolia, hollies and azaleas, in early fall," he said, "because the soil is still warm. The broadleaf evergreens need warm soil to develop a root system."

If your summer vegetable garden is dying down, start a new one this fall. Several vegetables are suitable for a fall garden.

"All the greens, broccoli and cauliflower are just a few of the vegetables that do well this time of year," McLaurin said.

To figure out when to plant fall vegetables, McLaurin offers a rule of thumb: "Determine the first frost date in your area," he said. "Back it up by the number of days the seed package says it will take to harvest, and add 20 days."

For example, the first frost date of the Athens-Atlanta area is Nov. 20. The maturation period for lettuce is 40 days. Add 20 extra days, and that makes the last planting date for lettuce Oct. 1.

If you're tired of the same old turnip, collard and kale greens, try something new and exotic this year.

"The oriental greens that are big on the market now should be planted in fall," McLaurin said. "Most will grow well in Georgia."

Whether you're planting fall vegetables, bulbs or perennials, good soil is the key.

"The soil must be in good shape with plenty of organic matter," McLaurin said. "You also need to mulch them to help protect them from cold. Mulch is good insulation, and you need it to help the root systems grow and protect them from the cold."

For details on how to plant bulbs for spring flowering, contact your county extension agent.

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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