Summertime! Planting Time?
A very commonly asked question of us is “When is the best time to plant?”
You would think it would be an easy answer. Unfortunately I tend to look off in the distance, think about my words, and give a long-winded answer. Officially, early spring would be a great time to plant, but late fall can be an excellent time to plant as well. And even summer can have its benefits. So allow me to explain:
Spring is good because the plants are dormant when the temperatures are cool. Therefore, the plants can settle in comfortably before the heat hits them. By that time they’ve been watered a bit, they’ve had some rain, they’ve been warming up and getting leaves but nothing is smacking them in any drastic ways. They are somewhat rooted and able to handle a little more of summer’s volatile temperatures, wets and dries.
Summer’s not a bad time either as long as you have time to water and actually know how to water. In previous blogs we discussed diking the plants and using wood chips to preserve moisture. But the actual amount of watering is one of those questions we get rather often that I can’t give a short answer to either. Both how much and how often are very subjective. If it rains an inch you’re good for five or six days…in spring or fall when it’s cool, in summer or up against hot side of a building or fence it’s a different game. In summer or against a building you may need to water every second or third day. The amount should always be several gallons. But that’s been discussed so let’s carry on.
Summer is a good time because plants can still set down roots and do a little growth establishing before winter. It may be a good time because it’s vacation season and you have the time. Or it may be a bad time because it’s the holidays, you’re away and your neighbour’s kid is now in charge of the watering. They could be out everyday or forget entirely. I’ve heard both and it usually does not end well..
So then what is great about fall? Well first of all you don’t break a sweat. Secondly, when you do plant you won’t be watering very often. Probably once a week to ten days and by late October to early November only once every two weeks.
The question really boils down to your vigilance of and when is the best time for you to be able to give full attention to your plants and when you have the time to plant. I’d like to add one more consideration. How much are you planting and can you handle the volume of time you will need to look after your plants. If you’re establishing a yard with shelterbelts, large trees, flower or shrub beds all in the same year you are asking for a second full-time job. Remember, Rome was not built in a day. Look at your schedule and be realistic. In all cases, I’d recommend mulching to minimize the number of times you need to water. This should not minimize the amount you water, it should always be a heavy dose, but done only once the crust of the soil is starting to get dry. With mulch, however, it is difficult to tell. The sure fire test is to stick your finger in the soil, just like the dipstick of an engine. If it’s damp and sticky you’re good to go as long as you have watered deeply the previous time. One thing mulch will do for the winter is add some insulation as well. If we don’t get a snow cover early it’s great to have 3 inches of wood chips cushioning that early cold. Of course they help as well if we have a melt in February and then get cold again.
I’ll take time for a quick rant here. Irrigation systems can be a real challenge. Over-watering is a possibility but under-watering is usually more the challenge. Sod requirements are very different from tree and shrub requirements. Most sod gets watered a little at a time but more often. Trees and shrubs like a good drench with a drying time. Many people believe they’re doing their trees a great favour while watering their lawns. But I have found more often than not the bottom 2/3 of the roots never get the moisture they need. Our suggestion is to run the irrigation for several hours but less often maybe once every five or six days. Best is always to check how deep the water is going. Once established, your grass won’t complain.
Another popular statement from customers would be “I want something low maintenance”. We try to accommodate but we know there is nothing of value that comes without effort. I have on occasion sarcastically said get a pet rock. I don’t mean to be offensive, but the truth is a plant is more like a pet then furniture or wallpaper. There will always be some maintenance. And of course there are some plants that have a wider range of tolerance. We recommend you learn your plants needs and what would suit your lifestyle and environment before going ahead with planting. So a long answer made short is that the summer is a great time to plant, spring is a great time to plant and fall is a great time to plant .
Happy planting and don’t forget to check your newly planted trees and shrubs for moisture. They will thank you for looking after them with many years of aesthetic pleasure.