3 great reasons to plant in the fall

Oct 25, 2016
It may seem a little backwards to put new trees and shrubs in the ground when most plants are going dormant for the winter. Here are 3 reasons why you should plant in the fall.


When we think of fall, we think of the natural world preparing itself for a long winter nap. Leaves show off their brilliant colors before October wind and rain bring them to the ground. Gardeners remove what remains of a productive summer and ready their garden beds in anticipation of spring.

Many people think about getting new plants, trees, and shrubs in the ground after the winter has passed, but for many species fall is the best time to plant. In fact, we have been planting nearly 60,000 plants at Whychus Canyon Preserve this fall with the help of volunteers, local businesses, and school groups and partners. Here are three reasons why planting in the fall is a good idea:


Planting along Whychus Creek. Photo: Jay Mather.
Planting along Whychus Creek. Photo: Jay Mather.
1.  Soil is warmer in the fall.

Throughout the summer, the soil has warmed up. Getting new plants in the ground August-October allows roots to take advantage of those warm soils. The warmer temperatures encourage root generation before the chill of winter, and helps plants thrive when spring comes. Plants with shallow, fibrous root systems gain the most benefit from fall planting, while plants with fewer, larger root systems often do better when planted in the spring.


New plants and colorful cottonwoods. Photo: Land Trust.
New plants and colorful cottonwoods. Photo: Land Trust.
2.  Air temperatures are cooler.

Plants take up water through their roots, and give off water vapor through pores in their leaves -- a process called transpiration. The rate at which a plant transpires is dependent on a number of different factors, including the amount of light they are receiving, air temperatures, humidity, wind, and water in the soil. In the fall, we have cooler temperatures and less light so transpiration rates are low, which increases a plant's chance of survival. When air temperatures are cooler than soil temperatures, roots will continue to grow, event if we don't see new growth above ground.


Warm soil allows roots to grow. Photo: Jay Mather.
Warm soil allows roots to grow. Photo: Jay Mather.
3.  Soaking rain.


The drought of summer can be tough on new plants. Getting them in the ground in the fall lets them take advantage of those rainy days that might keep us inside. Without the sweltering heat of summer baking the soil and drying it out, roots find optimum conditions to grow. When spring rolls around, plants have a stronger, more robust root system that is ready to take up nutrients and water to produce healthy growth above ground. The roots warm with the soil and have abundant moisture from the soaking they received through the winter.

New milkweed will attract monarchs. Photo: Land Trust.
New milkweed will attract monarchs. Photo: Land Trust.
This fall, more than 40 species of trees, shrubs, and flowers have been planted at Whychus Canyon Preserve in preparation for vigorous spring growth! These plants are vital to the success of the creek restoration helping stabilize creek banks and providing habitat for a host of wildlife species, including monarch butterflies. We are excited to be planting native milkweed at Whychus Canyon Preserve to create waystations for migrating monarch butterflies!

As our plants set roots this fall and winter, we at the Land Trust are doing the same. Through the Campaign for Whychus Creek, we are building the roots we need so that when the time comes, we are ready to grow and protect important wildlife habitat for generations to come.

We hope you’ll join us! Get involved with the Campaign for Whychus Creek and be a part of protecting wildlife habitat in Central Oregon, now and for the future.

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