It’s time to think fall. Say what? Yes, it’s time to think fall. I know, I know, it’s hard to think about anything fall when as soon as you step outside your deodorant immediately starts melting off. But if you love vegetable gardening, and love seeing your perennials, shrubs, and trees thriving throughout the year, it is definitely time to start thinking fall. Have your spring plantings been struggling this summer? The few I planted this spring have had a rough go of it, but my fall plantings are surviving, and many are thriving! Hmmmm? Could there be a connection? You betcha!

(Hummingbird bush planted in spring.)

Hummingbird bush planted in the fall

(Hummingbird Bush planted in fall.)

Fall is THE best time for planting here in San Antonio. We hope to get the word out to as many people as possible that #fallisforplanting. It’s hard not to get blinded by spring and the displays of colorful flowers. We all love that first arrival of warm air that floats in after a cold winter, promising us sunnier days ahead. But we easily forget how that first warm air quickly¬† turns into a fiery furnace and results in a non-stop battle to keep our beautiful spring choices alive. Well I don’t know about you, but I am done with the “warmer” days. I am absolutely craving the first cool breeze that offers new hope for gardening again…. even in….wait for it…. the afternoons!!! Am I right? I mean, we need some relief! But for some reason planting in fall is sometimes an afterthought. But, THAT HAS TO CHANGE! Fall planting can be the most important decision you make to be successful in¬† your gardening endeavors. It can also be one of the most rewarding!

Fall is for planting!
Choosing to plant in fall can be the difference between thriving, healthy, vivacious plants and struggling, pathetic, grasping-for-life plants. This is why: Planting in fall gives your plants the best chance of survival by allowing them to get established through our mild winters. They have time to develop strong, healthy roots so that they will be able to withstand our brutal summer temperatures and the inevitable lack of rain that goes along with it. Planting in spring shortens the time they have to get established before Hades-like heat roars in and stresses our plants relentlessly. So, unless you are planting all native, (and even then, fall is still the best time to plant) we strongly encourage you to take #fallisforplanting to heart. Besides, gardening in fall feels amazing! You get to feel the sunshine on your back while a the cool air swirls around you. You actually WANT to be outside.

(Can’t you just feel it? Too soon? Never!)

Have I gotten you on board for fall planting? Now you must take the second most important step and prep your planting sites. Each new planting season you should be amending your soils with nutrient-rich compost, and tilling it in to a 6″ depth if able. Deeper if you can. Further building your soil reaps greater rewards. You can gradually add micronutrients by incorporating products like Bio-tone from Espoma (mix it in with your compost and soil) or some Jump Start fertilizer from FoxFarm. You can always add organic matter like bone meal, rock phosphate, earthworm castings, mychorizzal fungi, and the like. Mixing in some Soil Conditioner, like the one from FoxFarm has a lot of these ingredients already included and can help your plants more efficiently take up nutrients, improve quality of soil as well as drainage. The more organic matter you can incorporate the better, but even if you just start with fully composted compost, you are doing pretty good.

(Compost ….whether you make your own or buy some bags, make sure it is fully composted, should not smell like anything but fresh earth. )

(Can’t say enough about this product. It is sooooo amazing. You can even work in a 3″ layer around your existing trees and shrubs to give them a boost. Contains pH-balanced aged forest products, earthworm castings, and bat guano, and beneficial microbes that stimulate root development and help plants access nutrients in the soil. )

(Plant food plus mycorrhizae gives your plants a jump start. Helps to grow a larger root mass and establish plants faster, and helps to reduce transplant loss.)

If you don’t prep, your plants will most likely be struggling all season long. It’s like deciding you want to do an IronMan marathon. You probably wouldn’t just show up the day of the race and expect a medal. You’d put time into preparing. You’d fuel up on healthy food to strengthen your muscles, you’d add new exercises each day or week to increase your endurance. During the race you may chomp on an energy bar to sustain you to the end of the race. Same thing with prepping your garden. You start with adding compost to offer your plants delicious nutrients to give them strength from the very start; and you continuously incorporate organic material and feed them throughout the growing season to encourage your plants to make it to the finish line.

(This guy obviously prepped for his competition. Prepping your beds and planting in fall can make your plants strong enough to handle stress of of our summers and make it to the finish line.)

(This guy obviously prepped for his competition. Prepping your beds and planting in fall can make your plants strong enough to handle stress of of our summers and make it to the finish line.)

(This guy forgot to prepare. He forgot to eat. He's got nothing left to give. He might not ever see his full potential. Same with your plants if left to fend for themselves during the fall.)

(This guy forgot to prepare. He forgot to eat. He’s got nothing left to give. He might not ever see his full potential. Same with your plants if left to fend for themselves.)

Now here’s the thing. You need to do this prep now. Yes it is still blazing hot, but you can modify when you do your gardening to stay safe. If you wait for cool weather to actually roll in, you’ll be behind or most likely be too late. Could you set an alarm and give up a few hours of sleep on the weekend mornings to get in some gardening hours? Could you set the TV to record your shows and head out to the garden when you see dusk approaching and it’s cooled off a bit? We know you can! Come see us with any questions you may have about garden prep and we’ll get you ready and raring to go. Can you be as excited about fall planting as we are? Absolutely! We already have fall tomatoes and more veggies heading into the nursery. Don’t delay, start prepping today! #loveyourgarden

-The Happy Gardener

-Lisa Mulroy