Fall is good time for planting, transplanting

Fall is a great time to plant and transplant trees, shrubs and perennials. The weather is cooler, plants are preparing for winter and plants are on sale.

Fall is a great time to plant and transplant trees, shrubs and perennials. The weather is cooler, plants are preparing for winter and plants are on sale.

As fall progresses the days get shorter and cooler. Cooler temperatures insure that plants transpire less, loose less moisture and are less likely to wilt when they are transplanted.

Wilting weakens the plant and often part or all of the plant dies.

Regardless of how careful one is moving a plant roots are destroyed.

They can be left behind when they are dug, dried by the sun and broken when they are placed into the ground.

Roots supply the plant with moisture and nutrients which enable it to grow and hold its leaves upright.

The more roots that are lost the more the plant is stressed.

Loosing roots in cool weather causes less of a problem than in hot weather as the plant is transpiring less and does not have to uptake the same quantity of moisture.

Stress is also reduced in the fall as plants are not putting out new top growth; instead they are putting down roots.

New roots will replace some that are lost when the plant is transplanted.

When moving any plant, tree, perennial or shrub, take care to dig as large a rootball as possible.

The size of roots should be in proportion to the top growth. The thick heavy roots are important to the plants ability to anchor itself and stand upright.

The small fibrous roots in the top 12 inches (30 cm) are the ones that absorb nutrients and moisture. A large plant requires a large amount of fibrous roots to insure it will continue to grow.

In the case of woody plants it is often best to prune back the top growth by a third to ensure that there are enough roots left to support the plant. In the fall the variety of plants available is usually less than the spring.

In the fall most greenhouses and garden centers have their plants on sale as they are trying to reduce the number of plants that must be kept overwinter.

Ask if the plants are still guaranteed. Check the health and shape of the plant before making a purchase.

Plants that are not healthy are not likely to make it through the winter.

Healthy plants that have been in pots all season will have a large amount of roots.

When the pot is removed the rootball should be a white mass.

Most often the roots will have encircled the pot keeping the rootball intact. While this works great for taking the plant out of the pot without a mess, it isn’t good for the plant.

Just before the plant is placed in the hole the roots need to be disturbed or broken apart.

There are many ways to accomplish this but the easiest method is to cut an X across the bottom and partway up the sides of the rootball with a sharp knife.

This will loosen the roots and allow them to spread outwards in the hole. It also works to pull the roots apart by hand. Once the roots are loose they can be spread outwards in the hole.

If the roots are left intact they may keep growing in a circle as opposed to growing outward into surrounding soil.

Placing a starter fertilizer that is high in potassium, in the hole and surrounding soil as it will encourage the plant to develop more roots.

Roots will continue to develop until the soil freezes late in the fall.

Take advantage of good fall weather and sales to add to the garden.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com.