The best time to plant trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses is typically during the dormant season. For North America, the dormant season lies between late August to mid-October. Planting during these cooler months has a wide range of benefits, and it gives you a head start in the spring with a garden full of well-developed root systems. Autumn is also a great time for planting container-grown trees, shrubs, climbers and roses, while the ground is still workable, while in late autumn you can begin to plant bare-root plants, provided the leaves have fallen and the plants are dormant. Additionally, you’ll use fewer resources and help pollinating insects find food in a time of year when they typically struggle.
With the wide variety of flowers, the time to plant is dependent upon what you plan to grow. Speaking for most native plants, the time to plant is in the cooler months of fall. You won’t see a lot of growth above ground, but trust us – the roots are flourishing and will do better than plants just starting to get their roots out during spring. Weed control in fall is also easier because the weeds in your soil are dormant, unlike in the spring when those weeds are highly energized and ready to wreak havoc on your garden.
Vegetables can be placed into two categories: cool-season crops and warm-season crops, so when to plant each type depends on which season it can tolerate most. Cool-season vegetables require a minimum planting temperature of 40-50°F (5-10°C), and they grow best when the temperature highs are in the range of 70-75°F (21-24°C) in early spring or the late summer and autumn. Warm-season vegetables require a minimum soil planting temperature of 50°F (10°C) and grow best when the air and soil temperatures reach 65-86° (18-30°C) during the late spring, summer, and early autumn.
Although spring and fall both have unique advantages for planting trees, experts still recommend you plant your trees from mid-August to mid-October. Although there is a wider selection of trees to choose from in the spring, fall is a good time because a freshly planted tree can put its energy into root growth, not foliage, and establish itself before winter. The combination of rain and the air temperatures being cooler than the soil encourages new root growth without new top growth. The result is a stronger, better-developed root system for the next spring when the plant begins to grow. Mulching with wood chips helps retain the soil’s required moisture. Some trees prefer warmer soil temperatures, so do your research to ensure proper growth.
When gardening this fall, be mindful of plants and trees you introduce into your community. Native plants thrive in Indiana weather and will require much less maintenance in the long run without causing a threat to local wildlife and other flora and fauna. Planting in the fall will give you a better-established root system, with less work on your part, and in no time you’ll have created a thriving ecosystem for your yard and garden alike. Still have questions on when to plant? This online almanac can help.