Even though spring ignites a desire to plant until you can't plant anymore, fall is the preferred time to put in new plants and transplant existing ones.
"It isn't just a marketing gimmick invented by the landscape or nursery industries," writes Julie Buchanan on her blog for the Plant More Plants campaign.
"Fall really is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. One reason is that soils are still warm and will promote strong root growth even through winter. Fall also brings more rains, so the need to water isn't as great.
"Plus, working in the yard on crisp autumn days is downright pleasant versus toiling under the harsh summer sun."
Plant More Plants is a personal stewardship campaign that encourages people to beautify their yards and help reduce storm water runoff by planting more trees, shrubs and hearty perennials, according to Gary Waugh, spokesman for the program sponsored by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Before you shop for new plants, consider where you will place them. Decide if they will live in sun or shade, dry or moist soil, clay or loamy matter and buy accordingly.
Fall is also the best window for giving your cool-season fescue lawn some TLC.
If you fertilize your lawn, use a phosphorus-free formula, suggests the Plant More Plants campaign. Most lawns contain sufficient phosphorus to meet their needs. Also, look for a fertilize with a slow-release formula that provides a steady, uniform look in your grass, and is less likely to wash away as runoff during heavy rains. Sweep excess fertilizer off walks, driveways and other hard surfaces to prevent staining and to stop more runoff, which gets into storm drains and eventually into major waterways where it helps promote pollutant problems.
In addition to promoting more plants, environmentalists ask homeowners to avoid sweeping or blowing grass clippings into streets where they can wash down storm drains.
Pet owners are encouraged to pick up pet waste, which has nutrients and can enter storm water runoff and make their way into creeks, rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Plastic newspaper and grocery bags are perfect for picking up pet waste, which is unsightly and also an unpleasant roadside presence and human health risk for walkers, bikers and runners.
Lastly, but importantly, the Plant More Plants campaign lightly recommends native plants because they require less water when established and really need little or no fertilizers – aged organic compost is best for giving plants major and minor nutrients.
You can purchase native perennials, shrubs and small trees this weekend during the Virginia Living Museum's fall plant sale 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and noon-3 p.m. Sunday. Native plants will also be part of the inventory at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden's sale 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; the garden is located in Freedom Park on Centerville Road, James City County.
For a list of native plants best for Hampton Roads yards, check out the Virginia Native Plant Finder option through the Department of Conservation and Recreation's website at dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/np.cfm.
Contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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