by Jennifer Gibson, horticulturist at The Good Earth Garden Center | Photo by Jamison Mosley
1. It’s easy to assume that spring is the best time of year to plant, what with all the new growth sprouting up everywhere. And it certainly is… second only to the BEST time to plant, which is fall. With warm soil temperatures and cooler air temperatures, plants spend their energy on establishing roots instead of sprouting new growth, like they often do in the spring months. Take a walk around your landscape and look for areas to improve, keeping your eyes open for struggling plants that would benefit from being moved (as fall is also a good time to transplant), and in general, consider what your landscape might be missing. Take pictures and bring them into the garden center for advice; come armed with details such as how much sun the areas get.
2. The cool season is just as long as the warm one here in Arkansas. Skipping fall and winter seasonal color means your landscape beds and pots are lackluster half the year! When you drive up to your home in January, after the holidays have passed and the décor has been packed away again, it’s the colorful display of pansies, violas, cabbage and kale that will brighten your day. Prep your color areas by removing the summer annuals and breaking up the existing soil. Breaking up the soil adds oxygen to it, increases water percolation, and increases nutrient levels, all of which will help the roots of your fall plantings grow and get established quickly. For perennial and annual color areas, we suggest amending the soil with Good Earth Brand Professional Growing Mix. Its mix of organic matter, perlite, pH adjusters and root protection provides an optimum growing environment.
3. We often get a wide-eyed reaction when we mention this tip — plants do NOT like to freeze dry. It seems counter intuitive to many, but it’s true; plant cells actually explode if they are dry during freezing temperatures. When temperatures below 25 degrees are forecast, and we haven’t had a recent thorough rain event, it is time to water. Give the plant time to absorb the water completely; ideally water 48 hours in advance of the temperature decrease. Watering containers located in covered areas is key; these only get the water you give them!
4. Trailing pansies are a thing. Every season, we talk to people who have no idea that there are trailing pansies such as the Cool Wave variety that cascade out of pots in lengths up to 18 inches. They come in a variety of colors and last all season long, just like traditional upright pansies and violas.
5. You can plant almost anything in a container; don’t leave those pots empty all season after removing your ferns and tropicals! Choose a container with thick walls, such as concrete or quality glazed pottery to better insulate plant roots. Place cold hardy, taller evergreens (such as yews, boxwoods or even camellias) in the center or back of pots, then layer around these with trailing Cool Wave pansies, cabbage, kale, autumn ferns, Coral Bells and ivy.
6. Cool-season annuals will bloom better if fertilized, both at planting and during warm spells. Pansies and violas will absorb and utilize nutrients when temperatures are above 50 degrees. Just apply BR-61 during warm temperatures or regularly apply Ferti-Lome Premium Bedding Plant Food to keep them going all season.
7. There are fall-blooming shrubs. It may seem like all shrubs bloom in spring and summer, but there are several that provide fall flowers such as Sasanqua camellias, Encore azaleas and KnockOut roses.
8. Preventing weeds is a year-round chore; apply pre-emerge every 60 to 90 days in both lawn and landscape beds. There are cool season and warm season weeds and the seeds germinate at different temperatures. This will greatly decrease the amount of weed spraying necessary.
9. After leaf removal is done for the season, mulch. This will give your landscape beds a clean look all winter and provide insulation for plant roots.
10. Cold weather vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, garlic, turnips and more can be planted in October and enjoyed during the cool season. If you start as early as September, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can be planted.