One of many personal Sperry landscaping projects that have been completed in prior autumns. Photo by Neil Sperry.
My Favorite Time of the Gardening Year
Most plant people will tell you that spring is the highlight of their horticultural year. Back when my workload was evenly split month-after-month, it was my favorite season, too. But that was decades ago, and I’ve found fall to be far more rewarding. It’s the season I do most of my landscaping, and I’m here to speak on its behalf.
Fall is much more relaxed. There’s no last-minute digging and transplanting, no end-of-winter pruning, no scalping the lawn, and no rush to get annual flowers and vegetables planted so they can mature before summer’s hot weather.
But, the even more compelling reason that fall is my favorite: woody plants set into the ground now will have a far greater chance of succeeding. They’ll have eight months to establish good roots before summer’s heat blows back into town. Nurseries are well stocked, and they’re not nearly as crowded now as they were back in mid-spring. Plants have, for the most part, been growing in the same containers all summer, so they’re full and well rooted, ready to take off and thrive in my gardens. As the American Association of Nurserymen proclaimed 40 years ago, “Fall Is for Planting!”
More of my effort this fall will be dedicated to rebuilding the landscape at this magazine’s office. Much of it was lost a few months ago when major remodeling and additional foundation work were done on our historic house. It was time to make the changes anyway, and the construction just gave me the push. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to accomplish there. The soil has been delivered, and the sprinkler system has been updated. We are ready to roll, and I’ll be showing you the results in the next several months.
In the meantime, as I walk around our home landscape in rural Collin County, I think back over the 35 years of projects that make up our gardens, and almost all of them were done in the fall.
This year, I have a Nellie R. Stevens holly that’s going to get a trim to remove lower branches and open up its part of our gardens. I’m going to figure a couple more bed designs to conceal the fact that encroaching shade has taken yet more of my turfgrass. I have several shrubs that I bought back in April that we’ve been watering carefully all summer. They’re root-bound and ready for their chance at stardom. And, I’ve committed to move all of my garden art around, just to redecorate our landscape without spending much money.
So, my invitation to all wise gardeners is to use these last few weeks of really warm weather to map out your plans for fall plantings. You, too, will learn the great benefits.
I’ll see you in the nursery!