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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Planting in fall makes for better root system

Rhonda Elliott Special to Handle Extra

With the advent of fall temperatures, many people think that bulbs are the only thing to plant now. But planting perennials, trees, shrubs and lawns in the autumn has some distinct advantages. The cooler temperatures and lower light levels help plants and lawns started now tooutperform spring plantings.

A plant set out in the ever-increasing light and warmth of spring immediately produces foliage at the expense of roots. Without a strong enough root system to support foliage growth, many spring-planted plants struggle throughout their first season. They lack vigor, remain relatively small and don’t usually blossom.

The cool temperatures and low light levels of fall are not optimal for foliage growth; therefore, fall-plantings, including lawn grasses, focus mostly on root development. This is why fall plantings don’t appear to immediately begin growing. However, even during midwinter, the root system continues developing. Come spring, a strong root system makes for a vigorous plant that can withstand our climate’s punishing conditions and is the basis for summer’s lush foliage and flower formation. A few tricks and tips will help ensure your fall plantings get off to a great start.

Visit the nurseries and pick up some bargains. Look for bright-green (healthy) plants and make sure that they are not root-bound. Plant them out and keep them well-watered; water is crucial at this time of year and you need to continue watering until the ground freezes. Do not prune or fertilize them; pruning and fertilization stimulate foliage growth and new foliage is very susceptible to frost damage. Apply a couple of inches of compost mulch after the soil freezes to keep the ground frozen and lessen thawing, which can damage roots. That’s all you have to do to get a jump-start on next year.

Now find a comfortable chair, a good book (gardening-related of course) and maybe take a little nap. If you end up dreaming about the beautiful flowers you’re going to have next summer, you can rest assured that your fall plantings will live up to all your dreams.

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