After Labor Day, I can feel and see the slowing of photosynthesis as plants wind down their season, heading towards dormancy or death.
It’s my cue to plant spring-flowering bulbs and trees so they can establish roots to take them through winter. And, it’s time to think houseplants—which to bring indoors and those I want to buy. September’s silent song drives me to do things fast, before the frosts of early October.
Buy or order bulbs now for the best selection and plant later. You can plant daffodils, hyacinths, lilies and tulips until the ground freezes solid. See list of spring-blooming bulbs to plant in fall.
If you can dig a 6-inch-deep hole, you can plant. Last year, I found tulips bulbs I forgot to plant and was able to get them in the ground after Christmas, despite a foot of snow. They bloomed this spring.
My favorite early daffodil is Tet aTet, from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. Photo by Doreen G. Howard
Planting Trees—Do It Right!
Tree experts (arborists) say you only have one chance to plant a tree correctly. And, that is in the fall. The Davey Tree Company has developed a checklist to help select the right tree and how to plant it. Here are a few quick tips to get you started.
- Identify the right tree: do you want shade, quick growth, color, screening or fragrance? Determine what type of soil you have. Wet or dry areas are better for different species. See more about trees and shrubs for autumn.
- Find the right place for the tree: look at how much sunlight the site receives. Most trees like full sunlight, but many need shade. Make sure the tree is away from above ground hazards like electrical wires, underground hazards like sewer pipes and far enough away from the permanent structures. Make sure the tree will have plenty of space to grow ten, 20 or even 30 years from now.
- Proper planting methods: dig a hole four to five times the width of the root ball. Plant so the tree trunk is ½ inch higher than the ground around it to prevent water from collecting next to the base of the trunk, which causes rot. Water is important, though. Newly planted trees, unless it rains, need to be watered 20 to 30 minutes a day until the ground freezes. This helps the tree establish a root system in a short time. After planting, mulch with one to three inches of shredded hardwood or leaves. Keep mulch an inch or two away from the tree trunk to avoid rot.
These trees that offer screening and color are nearly 30 years old. Spacing is important when you plant. Photo by Doreen G. Howard
With cooler fall nights, houseplants need to move inside. A general rule is to move them when temperatures shift below 60 degrees F. Only the healthiest of plants will survive inside so look over your pots carefully. Also, make sure you clean the pots and check for insects. One trick is to soak the pot for 15 minutes in a tub of lukewarm water. If there are unwanted pests hiding in the soil, they will come to the surface. If you see an entire any colony emerge, it’s time to re-pot! It’s also prudent to spray the foliage with insecticidal soap a few days before you bring the plant inside. You do not want spider mites or other pests in your home.
Remember that the winter home is often a shock. Heating make our indoor air drier, warmer, and less humid. It’s often best to group plants together to increase humidity. When you bring plants inside, avoid drafty areas. Plants that need full sun should be placed near south-facing windows. Plants that prefer partial sun should be placed in an east- or west-facing window. Keep in mind that some plants will lose leaves when first moved indoors due to stress; they will generally recover and replace their dropped leaves. Just avoid overwatering once indoors; wait until the soil is dry to the touch.
National Indoor Plant Week is the third week in September with good reason. Now is the time to look for houseplants at garden centers. You want plants with benefits like English ivy which drastically reduces mold indoors. It’s a good plant for your desk at work and near your bedroom window.
Peace lilies need little light, are easy to grow and do a terrific job of removing pollutants from indoor air. Photo courtesy of Costa Farm .
Other beneficial plants that clean the air most efficiently and produce large amounts of oxygen are peace lilies, dieffenbachia, ferns, palms and philodendrons. All are easy-care plants, too.
See more about fall garden clean-up, too!