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10+ tips for planting in the fall

When most people think about planting shrubs, trees, or flowers in their yard and garden they generally relate it to springtime. What many don't realize though is that fall planting can be quite beneficial and easier on the pocketbook.
Many garden centers and nurseries drastically reduce the price on remaining stock as fall rolls around to clear room for the coming season. This means gardeners can score a great deal on plants compared to paying full price in the spring. Planting in the fall also means plants have longer to establish root systems before the heat of the summer the coming year. Aim to plant in September, October, or November, depending on your climate.
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1. Work the ground up
Dig the soil up to a depth of 10-12" where you will be planting. Make sure to work it over well breaking up any clods or hardpans that could inhibit root growth.
2. Add plenty of compost
Mix finished compost into the soil to improve drainage, increase pore space, and overall enhance the soil. As the compost breaks down it will also slowly release nutrients.
3. Choose small
If possible, purchase smaller container plants to help save even more money. They may start out smaller than their larger counterparts but will catch up quickly and may even handle the stress of planting better. Just make sure to space them based upon their mature size.
4. Buy the best plants
What's left at the end of the season may not be the best quality plants, so choose the best of what's available. Plants that look sick or diseased will struggle to grow no matter how well you tend to them. Avoid plants with roots that are making their way out of the drainage holes in the pots; these are more than likely rootbound.
5. Trim off dead material
Remove all dead plant material before planting. This will encourage the plant to send all of its resources to healthy, actively growing plant tissues instead of trying to feed what has already died.
6. Dig appropriate sized hole
To accommodate the root ball, dig a planting hole that is approximately as deep as the root ball or container and 2-3 times as wide.
7. Mix in fertilizer
To help promote root development, add some bone meal or rock phosphate to the bottom of the planting hole. Both are good sources of phosphorus, the primary nutrient needed for root growth.
8. Set plant
Perennials plants, shrubs and trees should be set in the hole, so the top of the container soil is about an 1" above the ground's surface. Sunset recommends this to allow for some settling over time.
9. "Mud in" new planting
After setting the plant at the appropriate height, water it well 3-4 times and then begin filling in the planting hole. Then water it well again. According to Pistils Nursery this will help to prevent air pockets within the soil which helps to aid in successful overwintering.
10. Mulch
After filling in the planting hole completely, spread 2-3" of mulch around your new planting, making sure to keep it away from the plant's base. This will help to retain soil moisture and protect the root system through the winter.
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11. Water well
Make sure to keep your new planting well watered for the first couple of years until the root system is fully established. If precipitation is limited in the winter months, it may be necessary to water through the winter too.
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