Information Number One: Fall is for planting! This is one of—if
not the—biggest and most misleading untruths openly promulgated by both
"experts" and the nursery industry for decades. A marketing stratagem
of plant retailers and the "professional" organizations to which
they belong across the country, as they are desperate to move
inventory before they're either faced with dumping it all in the heap...or are
confronted with the undesirable and expensive necessity of finding a way to get leftover
plants (usually in containers) through a winter so they can be (slightly)
cleaned up in the spring and put back on benches and shelves—usually still
exhausted from the previous year, root-bound and choked with weeds.
Think about it. Plants are potted up in early
spring, in "soil" that's often the least expensive mix
possible—commonly riddled with stones and weed seeds—then placed on benches where
all summer long they sit in the hot sun—in their black or nearly black
pots...alternating between flood and high-temperature drought...either half
starved or grossly over-fed...mishandled by crowds of browsers who
abuse labels (and often break them, put them—more or less—back in
the wrong variety pot or just drop them on the ground), break stems, spoil
flowers and, as the season end approaches, their containers have accumulated a
layer of pelleted fertilizer.
So now comes Fall...and the
dregs still sit
on the same benches. They're exhausted, sunburned, root-bound, hungry,
quite possibly thirsty and, probably mislabeled. The retailer knows
they're too weak to survive over-wintering without expensive heroics...and
says (and here's the real translation of the phrase: "Fall is for
Planting"): "We have to get rid of these things before we have to throw
them out or get them through winter!"
Let the buyer beware!
Having said that, in spite of the risk, there
are some real bargains to be had at the close of the retail garden season! If—and
it's a big "If"—the purchaser understands what the plant has gone
through, and knows what measures will best insure winter survival.
- —Make your purchases as early in the fall
"sale" as is humanly possible.
- Remove all accumulated fertilizer
- —Trim the plant back to remove
flowers, seed heads, unnatural looking foliage.
- —if there were weeds growing in the pot,
remove them and the top inch of soil (to get rid of any dropped seeds).
- —Get your new (stressed-out) plants into the
ground fast...but add no nitrogen fertilizer. Maintain moisture
until ground freezes.
- —Have ample loose, dry mulch available so the
minute the ground starts to freeze you can apply a protective
blanket of shredded leaves, clean straw or pine needles. Remove
mulch at first sign of growth the following spring...and begin feeding.
- —Keep your fingers crossed...and pray that