North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Fall is for planting - Carpe Diem


I know that some of you might think that I just pontificate to amuse myself and that I am mostly full of BS (and that might be true occasionally) but in this case I need to tell you that the fall season is a darn good time to work in the yard and plant new stuff and move around old stuff. It’s a fact that the nursery industry has tried to impress upon the gardening public for decades with limited success. I understand that many of us are simply tired of yard work by the fall but if we can muster up our second wind our rewards come spring will be well worth the extra effort.

The reason fall is such a good time to plant is because the weather is much like spring. The day lengths are about the same and the night and day temperature fluctuations are similar. These are good growing conditions if you are a plant. Look around the garden and you can’t help but notice that some plants are getting a new lease on life. Lawns are perking up, shrubs and trees are putting on one more growth spurt and perennials like hardy cyclamen and fall blooming crocus (botanically known as Colchicum) are actually coming into bloom. Fall is really very similar to spring.

Another advantage to planting this time of year is that we can control the soil moisture unlike spring when often as not we have Too Much moisture in our soils. How many times have you dug a hole in spring only to have it fill with water all on its on? While that probably won’t ever happen this time of year what can happen is that our soils can be Too Dry and therefore it is essential that we fill our planting holes with water prior to planting and letting it soak in so that the surrounding soil will be well hydrated. There is nothing worse than putting a plant in a hole and surrounding it with bone dry soil. All that dry soil just sucks the moisture right out of the root ball and those little feeder roots dry up and die and we experience what we call “transplant shock.” With proper planting there is no need to deal with transplant shock.

Probably a third reason for planting this time of year is that garden centers are both clearing out old tired stock at significant savings and bringing in new product so there are lots of choices and some really good deals to be had. If we adhere to good planting practices like adding compost and fertilizer and managing soil moisture we should have no trouble being successful.

So believe me when I say that fall is for planting. Horticulturally speaking it is an excellent time and from the gardener’s perspective it is cooler and pleasant to be outside. Now that the kids are back in school there is more time to garden and finally there are opportunities to not only save money but to discover new and exciting varieties that are fresh from the growers and ready to plunge into the garden. Any time is a good time to garden in my book but fall is especially good. Seize the day.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can send your gardening questions to him at


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