Is planting in the fall is a good idea?

Is planting in the fall is a good idea?

YES! Here are some great reasons why:

Warm soil+cool air=happy plants. Just about every plant hardy in this area prefers moderate temperatures to summer's scorching heat. At the same time, plants like to sink their toes in warm soil. Fall is the only time of year you get those conditions-soil is still warm from the summer sun, but daily average temperatures are more comfortable for plants (and people-see #4).

Less insect pest and disease pressure. Leaf spotters and leaf chewers are more active in spring and summer months than fall, making for less-stressed plants that root in better.

Less water stress. Even if the fall brings only moderate rains, it's still easier to keep newly-planted plants watered when it's 70F than it is when it's 90F. (Pay special attention to the water needs of evergreens planted in fall as it's often being too dry rather than too cold that causes problems like leaf scorch or needle drop.)

Planting is more pleasant. As much as digging a hole is ever pleasant, it's a nicer job when the temperatures are moderate and the soil is not soggy from spring rains.

Plants have a head start for next spring. After spending the fall and winter rooting into the soil, plants are ready to get growing faster in spring, instead of having to devote energy to rooting. Flowering is often better the first spring/summer also.

Better drought tolerance. Plants get an extra 6-8 months of root growth before they have to withstand dry conditions the following summer compared to planting in spring. Deeper, better established roots are a large factor in determining how well a plant tolerates drought.


September Gardening Tips

September Gardening Tips

September is the Month to …

  • Start your fall clean-up plan. Diseased materials should be removed to avoid further spread and overwintering of pathogens. However, leaving some twigs, leaves, and branches can provide overwintering habitat for pollinators. Before clean-up begins, scout your yard for problem areas that should be thoroughly cleaned up as well as for areas where some debris  left over the winter is acceptable. If you haven’t started one already, consider a compost pile for your fall cleanup. Just keep in mind to not include diseased materials.

  • Plant! Early to mid-fall is a good time to plant, since cooler temperatures help reduce plant stress. Adequate time after planting should be provided for root establishment prior to soil freezing.

  • Keep watering when needed. September can be a dry month; if so, supplemental water can help plants to remain healthy and hydrated heading into winter. This is especially important for newly installed plants.

  • Divide spring and summer blooming perennials such as iris. Stake tall fall blooming perennials such as asters.

  • Plant spring blooming bulbs such as daffodils and crocus. Lift and store tender bulbs such as elephant ears and caladium.

  • Start preparing your houseplants to move indoors. It is best to move houseplants inside when the temperatures are similar inside and out, or about a month before the heat is regularly on. Prior to moving plants inside, check for any pests and consider washing leaves with a diluted soap and water mixture. Plants should be moved inside prior to the first frost, which for western Massachusetts is late September, and for the Cape and the Islands, late October to early November.

  • Make a sketch of your vegetable garden. Note where each crop was planted so that they can be rotated to a new spot next year. This helps to prevent the build up of diseases in a particular area.

  • Be on the lookout for rose rosette. This disease can occur at any time of the year, but is frequently seen during fall growth. Also known as witches’-broom of rose.

  • Harvest and dry or freeze herbs. Or pot up herbs and bring inside for continued use throughout the winter.

  • Do a soil test. Fall is a great time to add organic matter to the soil. Fall applications provide amendments time to break down prior to plant growth in the spring. Amendments should be based on a soil test. For more info on getting a soil test, go to

  • Visit an orchard. Pick your own peaches, apples, or pears for a tasty pie or crisp!

  • Aerate your lawn. Aeration helps to relieve soil compaction. Fall is also a good time for re-seeding lawns.

Amanda Bayer, Extension Assistant Professor of Sustianable Landscape Horticulture

It's Aeration Time!

It's Aeration Time!

Why Aerating Helps Lawns

Grass roots need air, water and nutrients to grow thick, deep and strong. When soil becomes compacted, even slightly, it inhibit the flow of the essentials that support thicker, healthier turf growth. A layer of compacted soil just 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick can make a significant difference in the health and beauty of your lawn.1 Aeration creates holes down into the soil to alleviate compaction so air, water and nutrients can reach grass roots.

Why Every Landscape Needs a Fine Gardener

Why Every Landscape Needs a Fine Gardener

There comes a time in many a property owner’s life when he or she looks around and realizes that their landscaping is boring. Same old boring shrubs that need to be trimmed every year. Same old trees that need to be pruned, beds weeded, grass mowed. Boring, boring, boring.

That’s when it’s time to move from plain, old, vanilla, status quo landscape maintenance to fine gardening.

Here’s reality: the industry average for our landscapes is status quo care. You plant stuff, help it grow, keep it neat. It may not be exciting, but it works. Think of it this way – as humans we need to eat to stay alive. You can eat the same old things, day after day, to sustain your body. But that’s not living. That’s maintenance. Or, you can choose to stir things up and make eating interesting – try new and even exotic ingredients and dishes to tantalize your taste buds and make eating enjoyable. That’s fine dining.

Think of your landscape in the same way. You can work to maintain a status quo, season to season and year to year, or you can choose to work with your landscape and help it evolve as the living entity that it is. Landscapes don’t like to be frozen in time – they prefer to be “life-scapes,” responding to natural biological processes as they grow and mature.

Picture your landscape as a life-scape video and watch it grow, bloom, go dormant, and regenerate with the seasons. Whether you realize it or not, your landscape wants to make sense in nature and be organized according to natural laws. It wants to be vibrant and deliver a “Wow!” in the form of blossoms and color that help plants reproduce but also help draw us in with their beauty.


 How to: Installing a meadow garden

How to: Installing a meadow garden

Meadow garden installation is a type of project that can end up looking extraordinary, but there are a few mistakes you need to watch out for.

If your customer has expressed interest in having a meadow garden installed in their landscape, take a look at these simple tips that can help you avoid a meadow mess up.

Site analysis, proper preparation and communication

The most important first step in any project is a site analysis, and it’s crucial to take note of how conditions may vary across the future meadow site.

Test the soil in different areas, scan for slopes and low spots and identify areas where water and moisture might linger or accumulate. Even subtle grade changes can create a significantly different soil moisture condition.

To get a better sense of what you’ll be working with, it’s recommended to spend as much time on the site as possible during different times of the day and in varying weather conditions. This will allow you to fully understand the conditions and dynamics of the site before you begin planting.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when planning out an area for a meadow is not taking into consideration what, if anything, was planted in the area beforehand and how long it was there.

Depending on what was there and how long will determine your level of pre-planting control. Typically for forage-crop fields or any site where seeds have been growing and dropping for years, it’s recommended to wait one growing season before moving forward.

Once your design plants have begun to grow, it’s much more difficult and time-consuming to control undesirable species, and in some cases, it proves futile because of the vast amount of species present.

Regardless of what kind of project you’re working on, it’s crucial that you keep an open and continual dialogue going with your customer regarding expectations, concerns and what can and can’t be accomplished in the space.

Talk to them about the realistic goals of what’s being planted, when it’s expected to bloom and what will and won’t thrive in the area. Show them photos of different phases of other meadows you’ve worked on to give them a better idea of what it will look like in each stage.

Seeds and long-term planting

You can potentially save yourself a lot of work by using supplier seed mixes, but even the most carefully assembled ones aren’t often site-specific enough. They can also contain species that aren’t appropriate for the area you’re working with or ones that you just simply don’t want.

If you’re able to find a mix that works well for your client’s space, then by all means, use it, but if you’re having issues finding the right blend, design your own based on your budget, desired aesthetics and ecological function.

Even if your clients are on a budget, be sure not to skimp on how many seeds are used in the area. Typically speaking, more species diversity is better than less, and there should be more than enough seeds used to allow good seedling density across the entire project area.

In climates with harsher winters, the best time to seed the area is in late spring or mid- to late fall. Warm-season species of grasses tend to have better germination rates when sowed in spring. Fall seeding can also make use of the winter and early spring freeze/thaw cycles to incorporate seed into the soil.

It’s true that customers are more than likely going to want instant gratification when it comes to their plants blooming, but stand your ground when it comes to turning down non-native annuals.

These plants may offer flowers their first few months, but they will ultimately be in competition with longer lasting perennials for space and resources. If you still want to give your customers a little bit of that instant gratification, use a very small number of annuals in a limited area of the space.

Grasses and niches

Grasses are an absolute staple to meadows, as they are the structural background that allows flowering species to shine. Meadows without grass just come across as unruly flower gardens running rampant, whereas a meadow that has grass as the dominant feature has somewhat of a simplistic beauty.

Having an abundance of grass in the area will also allow birds and other creatures to have an ample food source when winter sets in.

Take time to understand how every species in the meadow will interact with each other and how they will occupy the space above and below the ground. A good goal to keep in mind is to design the species into tightly knit communities that are stable and able to resist disturbances.

Having both root diversity and above-ground diversity can help ensure good density and structural diversity that can help resist the invasion of weeds and stay stable over time.

2019 Trends in Garden Design

2019 Trends in Garden Design

We share 10 important trends shaping the gardening world in 2019

From designing a garden that allows you to be more mindful, to growing your own food so you can feel more at peace about what you’re feeding your family, we predict that the tendencies of gardening in 2019 are leaning heavily toward creating a space that brings you health, happiness and relaxation.


More mess equals more stress is a saying that is not limited to the indoors, which is why a disheveled garden can leave homeowners feeling overwhelmed. Considering the busy world we live in, gardeners will be looking for ways to simplify their gardens in 2019.

  • Include mostly perennial plants that will come back each year and group them together based on their watering needs. For plant suggestions, talk to a master gardener in your community, attend a local garden tour to get ideas or check out the 2019 National Plants of the Year.

  • Consider removing messy trees or shrubs that don’t provide any ecological benefits. (For example, a tree that drops leaves into your pond or pool; a shrub that creeps into an oft-used pathway.)

  • Invest in an irrigation system that can do the dirty work for you while you’re away.

  • Do your research when selecting hardscaping materials. Choose quality stones that won’t require repair after a short amount of time or pavers that don’t need to be cleaned constantly. Contain gravel pathways with robust edging.


Using mulch properly isn’t rocket science, but does require care.

Using mulch properly isn’t rocket science, but does require care.

Mulch is a material familiar to virtually all landscapers, and for good reason: Its practical benefits, such as maintaining soil temperatures and conserving water, are complemented by its visual potential – mulch can create an aesthetically unified landscape.

Yet, there is no one ultimate mulch, so there are a number of factors to consider when selecting which type and how much to use.


Depending on what type of plants are being mulched, the amount needed varies. Roses need about 2 inches of mulch while fruit trees need 3 to 4 inches. No plant should have more than 4 inches of mulch, as this often leads to them suffocating and becoming dehydrated.

A layer of at least 1 inch needs to be applied in order to effectively prevent weeds from growing. The drainage of the site also changes the amount of mulch needed. If the area drains poorly, keep the mulch to 2 inches at most.

The most common mistake with mulching is the ever-despised “mulch volcano” that continues to persist in landscapes despite the many rants and informational pieces written online. To keep it brief, this is when about 1 to 2 feet of mulch is piled up around the base of a tree or a plant.

This creates a habitat for rodents and fungi to take hold, while slowly killing the tree by storing excessive heat and starving the roots of oxygen. Mulch should be kept away from the base of the tree (where the trunk meets the ground) by at least 3 inches.

No matter how many other people are out there making mulch volcanos, it doesn’t make it correct.

Types of material

Mulches can be broken down by whether they are organic or inorganic. Organic mulches tend to decompose in a season or two and are able to improve the soil. Materials such as straw, lawn clippings, leaf mold, and compost all break down in a season or less.

When looking for the gold standard of mulch – that is, which one is going to make the greatest contribution to the soil – it’s going to be compost, but it is important the compost has been made from optimal ingredients.

Straw is relatively cheap and is good for bulb beds, vegetable gardens and strawberry plantings, in part because it is lighter than some mulches. However, this material comes with some real issues. To name two: it’s flammable and contains grain seeds that can germinate.

Bark chunks, cocoa shells, wood chips, and pine needles are longer-lasting organic mulch choices. Bark chunks are readily available and resist both compaction and being blown away by the wind. However, bark can be toxic to young plants if it is too fresh or has been stockpiled improperly.

Cocoa shells are a favorite for their textured appearance and sweet smell. They’re expensive, though, and can be hard to acquire depending on what region of the country you are in. Another downside is that cocoa hulls are toxic to dogs if ingested.

Inorganic materials such as gravel, volcanic rock, and glass stones typically are considered a permanent part of the landscape so they don’t have to be replaced like organic materials. However, they do not improve the soil.

Unlike wood chips that pull nitrogen from the soil, inorganic materials like stones are not taking nutrients away from the plants or harboring diseases. In order to remain attractive, they do require meticulous cleaning.

Opting to use landscaping fabric is about as hotly debated as using rubber mulch, but it can be used to keep stone mulches from migrating down into the soil over time.

Applying mulch

Once you’ve determined the correct amount and type of mulch for a landscape, it is time to actually apply it. The best way to ensure the mulch is able to keep beds weed-free is by starting with a clean bed.

Putting down mulch should be done after ensuring the weeds in the soil have been eliminated to the best of your ability, either by using chemicals or manually pulling them up.

By layering newspaper over the soil before mulching, sunlight is blocked, accomplishing the same effect as landscaping fabric but the newspaper will eventually decompose. This helps the mulch suppress the weeds for much longer.

Spread the material evenly and replenish throughout the growing season as needed.

Hydrangea 101 - A General Overview

Hydrangea 101 - A General Overview

There are so many types of hydrangeas...they come in all sizes, shapes and colors! This video takes a good look at each of the types of hydrangeas and talks about their benefits and differences. Find information on the hydrangea you think is perfect for your landscape right here, While You Are Here, Don`t Forget To Subscribe!!!

What to do with the spring bulbs after they've bloomed?

What to do with the spring bulbs after they've bloomed?

What to do with spring bulbs after they’ve bloomed? Now that your customer’s spring bulbs have bloomed and are starting to die back, the question becomes should they remain in the ground or be dug up?

Basically, it comes down to the particular type of bulb that’s planted and whether or not they are being treated as annual or perennial plants.

The Amazing World of Conifers

The Amazing World of Conifers

Creeping Creepers

Published on October 9, 2018

I love autumn. After the very long, dry and warm spring and summer of 2018, I am very thankful and encouraged by the recent transition to our cooler, misty, gray days and intermittent rain showers. We may only receive a week or two of relief from the dry weather. While the local weather soothsayer ensures that our autumn will return to dry and sunny conditions, this native born Oregonian is enjoying the cool, gray mist and the ground-soaking rain showers that we have received the past several days.

Certainly one of my favorite aspects of the autumn season is all the delightful colors that our gardens and native trees begin to exhibit. Not far from my home, the local community college planted a long row of deciduous trees that explode into a widely varying array of bright red, yellow, burgundy, purple and orange. I believe the trees must have been a horticultural school experiment and we are now enjoying this delightful array of color from a batch of American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) seedlings propagated 30 to 40 years ago. The resulting seedlings were planted along one of the main – once rural – hi-ways, moving traffic North and South through this, now, growing urban setting.