New plants are less reliant on irrigation if installed at the beginning of the rainy season.

Autumn is the time for planting. Cooling weather slows plants down so that they do not mind disruption so much. Increasing rain (hopefully) keeps the soil evenly moist while roots slowly disperse. The combination of cooling weather, increasing rain and shorter days keeps plants well hydrated so they can slowly ease into spring.

Why is this important now? Well, it probably is not important. It merely demonstrates why this is not the best time for planting. Only a few warm season annuals and vegetables get planted this time of year. Seeds for certain autumn vegetables get sown now. Otherwise, more substantial plants should wait until autumn if possible.

Mid summer in some ways is the opposite of autumn. While the weather is warm, plants are too active to be bothered. Even minor disruption can be stressful. Soil moisture provided by irrigation is often too irregular and unreliable for dispersion of many new roots. There is less time to recover from stress during shorter nights.

Smaller plants and seeds survive summer planting better than larger plants do. Seeds need to disperse all new roots anyway, so they  will adapt to what they get. They certainly need regular watering, but are quite talented at putting their roots wherever the moisture goes. With a bit more time, smaller plants will do the same.

Larger plants have more difficulty with the planting process because they need to disperse so many more roots to get established. When they get planted, all their roots are initially confined to the volume of media (potting soil) that they were grown in. They are susceptible to whatever happens within  that limited volume.
For example, a small plant in a four inch wide pot is initially confined to less than sixty-four cubic inches of soil. It can double its soil volume to one hundred forty-four cubic inches by merely dispersing roots less than one inch laterally. A tree in a 24-inch wide box needs to disperse roots ten inches laterally to do the same!
It would seem that drought tolerant plants would be less susceptible to the stress of planting in summer.

However, they are more sensitive because they are so reliant on extensive root dispersion. Until they disperse their roots, they actually need to be watered as frequently as other plants do.


8 thoughts on “Summer Is Not For Planting

  1. Ack, you read my mind. How did you know that I was going to plant perennials and shrubs tomorrow?

    Traditionally I usually finish my planting up by mid July. I am a bit ahead of schedule this year because I had a little more free.

    And while I totally agree with every word you said, in my heavy clay soil if wait to plant until autumn, plants often don’t make it. They wind up succumbing, I think, to a combination of cold and wet in the early spring.

    So they’ll have to take their chances now–with a little extra water to help get them through the rest of the season.


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      1. With high humidity, the warmth should not be as much of a problem; although milder autumn weather would be better, and coincide better with the natural life cycle of the plants.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of the plants that we must dig out of landscapes at work get canned and put in the ‘nursery’ until autumn. I have done the same with odd plants that were purchased during the warmth of summer. They go into another landscape only if regularly irrigated. Sometimes, there is not choice about digging them.

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