When is Your Fall Planting Season Over?

Fall planting

Is Fall Planting Season Over?

It happens around this time of year. We’ve been receiving quite a few emails asking if it’s still a good time to be planting. Fall is considered the best time of year to plant but when do you know the planting window has closed?

As the Calendar is getting ready to turn to November, and the daylight shrinks, cold temperatures can’t be too far away. There are already parts of the upper peninsula of Michigan that had had a snow storm dump 6+ inches!

If you look at online nurseries or get any of their emails and you’ll find lots of sales.  18 of the top 30 online nurseries we monitor are still actively promoting fall plating.

US low temp forcast mapBUT, as we speak the 10 day temperature forecast has much of the country getting close to or even below freezing at night. You can view the national 10 day temperature map at https://weather.com/maps/tendayforecast.

So, when is fall planting season over for you? We checked with our local state agricultural extension office and the consensus was fall planting is best completed roughly 3 to 4 weeks before your first typical hard freeze.

Okay, so what is a ‘hard freeze’?  According to the National Weather Service; A hard freeze is when there is at least 4 consecutive hours of surface air temperatures below 25 degrees. Depending on climate conditions and where you live, that can be anywhere between September 15th and Dwecember15th. Many areas in the south may never experience frozen ground.

So, that is the key, frozen ground at least 2 inches deep. First of all, just digging the planting hole will be a frustrating task in futility. More importantly, the root system needs the soil to remain unfrozen until they are established.

Garden.org has a neat feature to help you with fall planting date ranges. They list average first frost dates tool. Just enter your zip code for historical average first hard frost.

It’s always kind of hard to predict when the weather has turned cold for good and fall planting season is over.  Your local 10 day weather forecast should help with where your area is trending. I grew up in the ‘Snow Belt’ on Lake Erie. I can recall trick or treating as a kid in snow. Another year I was in shorts. Mother Nature keeps us guessing.  The point is that unless you historically have frozen grown within 4 to 6 weeks from when you are considering buying outdoor plants, your fall planting season is over.

Other things to consider include if it is going to be cloudy or sunny?  Wind or calm?  No wind overnight will allow colder air to hang around close to the ground. But a cold wind will sweep away warmer air. Sunny days will help warm up the ground to hold off some colder temperatures.

Micro climates within the same town can be quite different. Lake effect snows along the infamous ‘Snow Belt’ I grew up along could bury folks living along the lake but a few miles inland could never see a single snowflake.

Bark MulchIf you believe it’s going to be a while before your ground will freeze 2 inches or more below the surface, it’s probably safe to plant.

You can also do a few things to help protect the time & money you’ve invested. Mulch heavily (2 to 4 inches) around your new plants.  Worst case scenario, invest in some frost protection plant covers if extended freezing weather is hitting earlier than expected.

About the Author:

Doug Hall owns BuyEvergreenShrubs.com and has over 12 years’ experience working with some of the top online plant nurseries. Doug has visited or ordered from over 50 nurseries. He also has extensive direct marketing experience.
Doug Hall