Benefits of Fall Planting
Whether it's best to plant in fall or spring has long been subject to debate. A definitive answer, in large part, is based on rainfall and temperature patterns. Those who live in places where the soil typically freezes solid by November and rain is regular in summer will likely side with springtime. But for those who live in a Mediterranean climate—such as the central coast of California, with summer rain rare and winter frost infrequent—fall can be the best time to plant for several reasons.
• Energy Efficient
In spring, a plant's energy goes primarily into making flowers, seeds, and reproducing itself. By fall, however, most plants are no longer in bloom; therefore, it's easier on them to transition from "living" in a nursery pot to being placed in the ground because, for the rest of the year and throughout winter, their energy can be redirected towards getting established, growing roots into their new soil, and preparing to bloom the following spring.
• Earlier Spring Blooms
Since planting in fall allows seeds or roots to "settle" into the soil over the winter, they are on an early schedule to burst into growth in spring; as an example, fall-planted wildflowers bloom about two weeks earlier than spring-planted seed.
• Better Conditions
The cooler air temperatures in fall are easier on both plants and gardeners. The soil is still warm, so roots can easily get established and begin to grow, and plants are more amenable to being dug up and separated (as long as they are no longer blooming). For gardeners, fall offers more optimum days for planting than spring, when rain and other unpredictable weather can make working the soil difficult. And gardeners typically have more leisure time for planting in autumn than in spring, a time often filled with many other yard and household chores that must be dealt with.
• Easier Weed and Pest Control
Since fall planting is done after the primary growing season has ended, the weed seeds in soil (always there) become semi-dormant, unlike in spring when they're highly energized and bursting to grow. Thus the fall gardener isn't doing double-duty, planting plants and digging out weeds all at the same time; and small weeds that do sporadically appear are easy to spot and remove. Pests and disease problems fade away in fall, too, and regular fertilizing is no longer required since it only promotes new, tender growth that would later get extinguished by a winter chill.
• Ideal for Drought-Tolerant Plants
Natives and other drought-tolerant plants do well when planted in fall. Since they need regular watering only during their first year in the ground, winter and spring rain is usually enough to get them well-established. After that, they'll require only infrequent, if any, water to thrive.
• Bargains at Nurseries
To the delight of gardeners, fall is bargain time at many garden centers that want to find homes for the last of their inventory before winter. Mark your calendar for one of the best sales to find hundreds of varieties of spectacular and unique plants
Arboretum's 2016 Fall Plant Sale Saturday October 15
10 am to 12 noon—members only *
12 noon to 4 pm—free and open to the public
* Memberships will be available at the gate on the day of the sale or by visiting http://arboretum.ucsc.edu/support/associates/index.html.
This sale offers plants carefully chosen and propagated to conserve California natives and other beautiful species especially bred for drought tolerance and pest control. Arboretum staff and volunteers are on hand to provide expert gardening advice and answer questions. Detail on the sale is now on the Arboretum’s web site and a plant sale list will be posted by October 7.