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Savvy homeowners are bottling up their springtime enthusiasm for landscaping and saving a bit for autumn. The advantages of planting during football and sweater weather are numerous. Plants need less water as days are cooling down, so they are pumped and ready to take full advantage of the next spring’s growth surge. “Most planting can be done in the fall, as most landscapers still plant up until December,” says John Young of John Young C. Young Design in Delaware.

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"We love planting ornamental grasses. They look beautiful in the garden all winter and provide food and shelter for the birds..." - John Young of John Young C. Young Design.

Soil temperature may actually be warmer in the fall than in the spring to help ensure planting success. There are no hot, dry summer days on the horizon to stress newly-installed plants. Roots have time to develop before taking a winter break.

Trees and shrubs do best when planted in the fall, which begs the question why Arbor Day is in May. But the key with both is careful selection and expert advice. “Trees at nurseries are in pots or dug into the fields in the winter, and they survive as well as perennials grown in pots,” Young says. “Perennials grown in pots in Ontario are placed in a hoop house with a plastic roof and are not heated. They are all still watered up until the first frost. Therefore, choose plants wisely in the proper zone that you live in to help increase winter survival of the plant.”

According to Young, watering, whether by Mother Nature or a hose in hand, along with mulch is as important to plants installed in the fall. “Watering and mulch are key to plants that are planted in the fall as the plant adjusts to growing in the ground, good care should be maintained,” he says. “The weather plays a key part in the survival of plants over winter as long as homeowners give the plants good care once planted and mulched.”

There is more selection of products in nurseries in the spring, but in the fall value-conscious homeowners and landscapers might benefit from price reductions in the fall. It’s not all about large plantings and projects.

Autumn is the perfect time to plant tulip, crocus, and daffodil bulbs to provide early spring colour in the garden. Is there a more welcome sight than the first daffodil blooms of spring after a cold winter?

Fall is also ideal to plant one of the biggest trends of the past few years, ornamental grasses. Some of these low-maintenance perennials can grow more than four metres and have the added benefit for homeowners who are equal parts gardener and ornithologist.

"We love planting ornamental grasses," Young says. "They look beautiful in the garden all winter and provide food and shelter for the birds. They can also protect the new growth of the plant in the spring from freezing and thawing."

Landscape designer Patrick Callon,of London, says fall is a good timeto tackle tree pruning and to prepareplants for next season.

When it comes to pruning trees to correct issues such as structure and desired shade coverage, remember the species. Some, such as sugar maple and birch, must be pruned by the end of September or else the wounds from removing branches won’t heal properly in time for winter. Others, such as evergreens, can be pruned almost year-round. “Pruning can be done when they’re young and with a plan,” he says.

“Be careful not to remove too many branches, which can harm a tree.” Fall and even early winter are when experienced homeowners schedule major landscaping work such as decks, patios and retaining walls.

The work gets done when families are less likely to be using the yard. A new look is ready when the warm weather arrives next season.

Callon’s company works outdoors until Christmas on these types of projects, using greenhouse-type shelters to keep the temperature right. “It’s later in the season, vacations are done and people aren’t outside as much,” he says. “The disruption with dust and activity in the neighbourhood is less.”