Fall — An Optimum Time To Plant

Fall is a great time to plan a garden, plant trees and gear up for spring. Submitted photo

Like it or not, the fall season is quickly approaching! To many, this may be a reason to cry out in foreboding trepidation at the thought of winter sneaking in. To me, this is the time of year to start planning for the burst of greenery and life that comes after winter’s end. It may seem counterintuitive, but fall is a great time to plan a garden, plant trees and gear up for spring.

As summer winds down, most plants begin to enter a dormant state. By October and November, deciduous trees have lost their green leaves, and photosynthesis has slowed to an almost complete stop, although it does continue in the winter months for some evergreen and coniferous plants. This is the time when plants really set their roots down. Because of this change in their behavior, it makes for a great time to plant a new tree or garden near your home. Your new plants will opt to dig their roots deeper, rather than sacrifice root development to blossom or produce leaves. The end result is a heartier plant or tree and more robust growth in the next season.

Fall is an optimum time to plant when you consider these seasonal changes in plant behavior, and a healthy diversity of native plants aids in replacing ecological relationships that have been lost due to human activities. But a new garden or tree in one’s lawn goes beyond that. Planting wildflowers, shrubs and trees is always beneficial to us, regardless of the timing. Working outdoors can be relaxing, and there are studies that suggest soil microbes release antidepressants as we dig and weed and plant. Literally, working in your garden acts as an antidepressant that stimulates a positive mood. A garden and shaded nook also provide an aesthetically appealing, calming area in your yard which further reduces stress and anxiety, providing more positive mental health benefits.

There are also other, more pragmatic, reasons to plant trees around your home. A well placed tree can improve property values through beautifying the neighborhood, with some studies hinting at up to a 15 percent increase in the assessed value. Those of us who prefer a more private feel to their yard can utilize the masking properties of trees to aid in blocking out some of the unwanted scenery in the neighborhood, something that many neighbors would agree on and appreciate. This also translates into a buffer against the noise of the city, as leaves aid in absorbing sound from vehicles and the hustle and bustle of urban life. Trees also keep your home cooler and can cut air conditioning costs up to 50 percent. This shading affect also protects your children from harmful ultraviolet rays and reduces water loss in your lawn. Plant a tree in your yard, enjoy the scenic beauty, lower monthly homeowner costs and a provide safer place for the kids of the neighborhood.

Make sure you are selecting the right species of tree for your lawn’s specific sun, soil and water characteristics, and always opt for a native Chautauqua County species of tree. Native trees are better adapted to our climate, use less resources and tend to thrive better than ornamental trees. Avoid species that can escape into the wild, such as Bradford or Callery pear and Japanese Maple. These trees are wreaking havoc in many local forests by outcompeting native trees and interrupting the normal relationships that trees have with insects, birds and other wildlife. Not an expert? Join the club. Luckily, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has staff at hand to help advise any garden project, as well as a list of native tree species replete with their preferred environmental qualities. We are here to help, feel free to pick up the phone and call in with any questions.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.