Autumn – the natural time to plant

Just like the school year, the gardening year begins in autumn, which may come as a surprise to many. If 2011 has been a gardening disappointment for you due to the unfavourable weather, there is no need to wait until spring to begin improving matters. Autumn is the best time to plant.

The season of autumn

Autumn is the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, according to Keats’ famous ode to the season. While there are plenty of flowers that bloom into early autumn, foliage is the star of this time of year, providing colour in various shades of buttery yellows, pinks, reds, purples, and browns. Take some inspiration from nature and replicate the effect in your garden.

If we look around us, we will see berries, seeds, and fruits on most plants. Throughout autumn, these tools of plant regeneration will find themselves dispersed through various methods, including wind, explosion, animal/bird transfer, and water. Essentially, nature is sowing in autumn.

Why garden in autumn?

• The soil is at its warmest, and as the days get shorter it is much less likely to dry out.

• By planting now you will give a hardy plant a 100 per cent chance to do well next year.

Planting in autumn v planting in spring

By removing a plant from its pot and surrounding it with warm, moist, soil this autumn, you put ‘temptation beyond endurance’ before the plant’s roots. Roots adore these conditions and they will begin to grow and spread out. By next spring, the plant will have a well-developed root system that can derive moisture and nutrient from a much wider area than it could have done when it was in its pot.

By waiting until the spring, the very same plant will have its roots confined in its pot over the winter. So rather than having the opportunity to get down to work, the roots will rest over the winter and will have strenuous work to do next spring. This plant will have to be watered a lot more next spring to ensure it develops properly, as the root system will only be able to draw water from a much more restricted area.

While both plants will look exactly like they are now above the ground next spring, there will be a huge difference between them below soil level. The autumn-planted specimen will have a massive head start on its spring counterpart.

Other advantages of autumn gardening

The autumn months of September, October, and November are on average warmer than the spring months of March, April, and May. So it is generally more pleasant to be out in the garden.

Garden centres will have a good stock of spring bulbs, which should be planted now. The staff are trained to advise you on what plants will prosper in your particular situation. Autumn is the best season for planting trees, shrubs, roses, hardy climbing plants, heathers, autumn bedding (winter pansies, etc ), and for sowing a new lawn.

It’s garden time online

Bord Bia’s It’s Garden Time website, www.bordbia.ie/gardentime, includes many tips on how to get started in the garden including information on what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, and how to plant. For guidance on using recognised horticulture professionals (ie, garden centres, nurseries, and landscape contractors ), the website also includes the winners of Bord Bia’s National Amenity Horticulture Awards 2010/2011. Whether you are considering a complete makeover, planting a few shrubs, or just pottering in the garden this autumn, seek some advice from www.bordbia.ie/ gardentime

Bord Bia is also offering visitors to the site the chance to win €500 worth of plants for your garden and a consultation with a quality approved landscape contractor. Just send a photo of autumn colour found in nature or in your garden to Bord Bia. Full competition details are on the It’s Garden Time website at www.bordbia.ie/gardentime The closing date is Friday September 30.

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