Every year it’s the same old, same old. Plant in the spring, grow during the summer and clean up in the fall. By November it’s all over until spring, when the whole process starts up again; wash, rinse, repeat.
While sticking to a seasonal routine isn’t a bad thing, it can prevent you from taking advantage of one of the best times of the year to landscape or make improvements to your yard.
“Most people don’t realize that you can actually landscape any time of the year as long as the ground isn’t frozen and someone is there to water the plants,” said Karen Powell, garden center manager at Gledhill, a nursery and landscape company in West Hartford. “What’s nice about fall is that ground temperatures are warm, which is ideal for planting.”
Even better is the arrival of cooler weather making the work a little bit easier and reducing the amount of watering time necessary for new plants and shrubs.
Michael Gerrity prefers not to spend his entire summer watering which is one reason why the Ellington resident and homeowner waits until fall to add to his landscaping. “The best part of putting plants in the fall is that you’re watering less, the temperatures are better and the sun sets earlier, so it’s not as brutal on the plant.”
Another reason is that holding off until autumn allows him to spend the spring and summer months identifying where there are gaps in his existing plantings or where he could use more color, while everything is still in full bloom.
“You want to be able to look at it as it’s going to be finished,” Gerrity said, “as opposed to winter when nothing is grown in.”
Doing so can be helpful in planning your landscape design, something that’s important no matter what season you’re planting.
Planning To Avoid Mistakes
Powell said that when it comes to landscaping, hiring a professional is always the best choice but that there are options if you’re trying to save a few bucks.
One of them is doing the installation yourself, but hiring a landscape designer to come up with the plan.
“Most people don’t have a great idea or sense of what they want to do,” she said. “A landscape designer can help layout where specific plants go. A lot of people tend to overcrowd landscapes and plant too closely together.”
And once the plants are in and rooted, they’re not easy to take out.
“It can lead to a lot of headaches in future years, whereas if you start with a better design to begin with, it can save time and money,” said Powell.
For weekend warriors who want to do the whole shebang themselves, Tim Tomko, landscape designer with Creative Exteriors, LLC, a custom landscape company located in Vernon, offers some advice.
“If you’re doing it yourself, the first thing to think about is researching your plants; know how big they will ultimately get,” Tomko said. “All plants need to be pruned to some degree, so start with some good dwarf varieties; smaller plants close to the house have better end results.
The second most important thing is to have a good plan so that you can nicely combine textures, color, deciduous plants and greens.”
According to Tomko, a considerable amount of impulse buying occurs at garden centers, where people randomly choose plants based on their aesthetics rather than suitability — resulting in what he calls a “hodge-podge collection of overcrowded plants.”
And without understanding the requirements of plants they are installing, homeowners also run the risk of putting them in areas with insufficient or excessive sun exposure, resulting in improper growth.
It’s Bargain Season
But if you know what you’re doing, there’s no better time than autumn when garden centers and nurseries are clearing out their inventory in advance of winter.
According to Jim Gorman, owner of Creative Exteriors, fall landscapers are likely to find plenty of good deals.
“It’s a very nice time of year to buy, it’s less expensive and you can get a bargain especially in the late fall and early winter.”
He also said that it’s a good time to seed and fertilize your lawn.
“September is the best month, prior to the leaves falling,” said Gorman. “If you can seed at the beginning of September to let the seed germinate, the morning dew and evening moisture makes it so that when you water, it lasts a lot longer than spring or summer.”
Finally, the autumn months are also perfect for planting the bulbs that produce spring flowers. Tulips, daffodils and crocus bulbs can all go in and require a minimal amount of watering and maintenance.
“The best time to put in bulbs,” said Powell, “is any time from September until the ground freezes.”