Autumn a perfect time to plant: 3 expert tips on fall gardening

People may thing fall is a time for taking things out of their garden, but gardening expert Perry Grobe says it is the perfect time for putting things in.

Perry Grobe, of Grobe's Nursery, says plants like the moderate weather of fall

Perry Grobe said the keys to a successful plant are picking a good location, preparing your hole well and not fertilizing too much. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

With autumn fast approaching, people may be spending a lot of time outside, pulling things out of the garden and preparing back yards for winter. 

But Perry Grobe, owner of Grobe's Nursery in Breslau, Ont. says September may actually be the perfect time to put things into the ground.

"The weather's more moderate. The plants aren't sweating moisture quite so fast. They like [fall] for that," Grobe told CBC K-W. "But you can really plant almost any time. 

"The biggest problem is that people think they have all the time in the world. They should really be getting out there and doing it now, because as the weather gets lousier they really have less inclination." 

According to Grobe, shrubs and trees do particularly well when planted in the fall, as long as you do the following: 

1. Pick a good location

Plant your tree or shrub somewhere it is going to thrive, Grobe says. That means picking a spot that has the right amount of sun. It also means paying attention to drainage, as some plants prefer well-drained soil while others like it moist. 

2. Prepare your hole

Grobe says the rule of thumb is to dig your planting hole twice as wide as the pot or root ball of your plant, and roughly to the same depth. Before refilling the hole, mix some of the original topsoil with peat moss and compost. Then pack this in the hole around the new roots. 

3. Don't over-fertilize 

This applies to new plants and existing ones: Grobe says you don't want to over-fertilize your autumn trees and shrubs. Giving the new plants some root transplant fertilizer is okay, but that is all you should do. 

Grobe warns that giving a plant too much fertilizer in the fall is "the worst thing you can do," because the plant will keep growing, rather than start slowing its metabolism in order to prepare itself for winter. 

Some trees can also be wrapped in burlap or protected by wooden structures, but Grobe says that should not be done until later in the fall when the ground freezes, and only needs to happen when plants are susceptible to drying out over winter and are exposed to a cold, north or west wind.

For container gardening, Grobe said there's not much you can do to preserve those plants, other than put them up against a building and barricade them with peat moss or leaves. Small containers can also be brought inside. But people shouldn't be disappointed if many common container plants die.

"They're called annual plants for a reason," he notes.