50923thumbAutumn is for planting . . . but not much else. While it is important to get certain new plants into the garden before cool and rainy weather, other gardening chores will not be necessary while plants are becoming less active before winter dormancy. Raking falling leaves is probably the biggest of the new chores that are specific to autumn.

Formal hedges that have been getting shorn regularly since spring may not need to be shorn again until next spring. They simply will not grow much between now and then. If possible, pittosporum and photinia should not be shorn once the weather gets rainy. Their freshly cut stems are more susceptible to certain diseases while wet than during dry weather.

Citrus and tropical plants should not be pruned late because pruning stimulates fresh new growth that will be susceptible to frost later in winter. Even if tender new foliage does not get frozen, it can get discolored and disfigured by cold weather. Cool weather inhibits vascular activity necessary to sustain the development of healthy new foliage anyway.

For the same few reasons, fertilizer will not be necessary later in autumn. Fertilizer can potentially stimulate new growth when it is not necessarily wanted. Also, some nutrients in fertilizer are less soluble (or chemically unavailable) while the weather is cool. Only plants that grow through winter, like cool season annuals, vegetables and grasses, will want fertilizer.

Planting is done in autumn because plants are either dormant or less active than they had been during warmer weather. They can take their time to disperse their roots into comfortably cool and damp soil. Evergreen plants do not draw as much moisture from their roots while foliage is cool and damp. Deciduous plants draw even less moisture without foliage.

Spring blooming bulbs get planted in autumn not only so that they can disperse their roots leisurely, but also because they need to get chilled to bloom well. Bulbs can be phased, so that those planted earlier will bloom before those of the same kind planted later. However, if planted too late, they may not get sufficient chill.

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5 thoughts on “Winter Dormancy Begins In Autumn

    1. Yes. I prefer to do it that way because it helps to condition the soil slowly over winter. If the garden is being put to bed for winter, there is nothing growing it in anyway, and even if there are perennials in the garden, this process does not provide enough immediately available nutrients to ‘shock’ them into growing again. Any nutrients lost to leaching over winter will be very minimal.

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    1. It is too early in our climate, but will be time to do so as soon as the trees are bare, or as soon as bare root stock becomes available in nurseries. The season is probably earlier in your region, and once the season starts, there is no rush. I prefer to plant early so that the trees can settle in and start to disperse roots through winter. In colder climates, they do not disperse roots much during the very cold winter weather. However, they must be in the ground before their buds start to swell!

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