Taking advantage of the ideal time of year, Andrew May transplants bronze sedges out of the rose garden and then will add new roses. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

Taking advantage of the ideal time of year, Andrew May transplants bronze sedges out of the rose garden and then will add new roses. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Fall planting keeps garden outlook rosy

NOT ONLY DID we have frost this past week, we turned our calendars to November and this morning we turned our clocks back one hour (don’t forget).

So for this week, everyone should have either a new shovel or have their old shovels inspected, tightened up and raring to go!

Hopefully many of you found or purchased a trench shovel because with our rocky soil, that tool is essential for root pruning and transplanting.

A trench shovel’s long, narrow blade penetrates the earth easier and is extremely useful for getting around rocks or other obstructions in the soil.

The blade length also ensures a deep enough cut through the roots and around the plant.

This, in turn, gives you an adequate root ball for good survivability after transplanting.

Next, a wire brush, file and vegetable oil are essential if one loves one’s own back and wishes for it to be pain-free.

Rust on a shovel will cause the soil to stick to it, adding great resistance as you try to slice through the ground or dig. A dull-edged shovel, just like a knife, creates more effort.

One should always wire brush off their shovels first, then sharpen the edge with a file.

When done with these chores, coat the blade with vegetable oil so dirt won’t stick.

The reason for this lengthy introduction is because now is the time to plant and/or transplant!

All of November, December and January are the optimum time to plant or move woody ornamentals — which means vines, roses, shrubs, bushes, trees and many ground covers.

Regardless of what garden books print or national plant experts say, on the North Olympic Peninsula, we all should be planting in a wholesale manner in the next few months.

Keep in mind that one can plant year-round on the Peninsula, but the optimum time is now.

Never forget, our weather here is botanically perfect.

Frost does not penetrate the ground even an inch, nor does it last for more than a day or two.

Thus, when other garden references try to discourage late fall or winter planting, that recommendation does not apply to us.

In addition, most of our plants’ root systems are actually growing this time of year precisely because of our mild weather that translates out to soil temperatures in the 40s or 50s in the root zone.

This idyllic soil temperature, when coupled with the rainy season, means your plant will root-in extremely well if planted or moved now.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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