If you are thinking of adding more native plants to your landscaping, early fall is a good time of the year to do so. But first, survey your property.
Making a Plan
Although it is best to have photos of your house and landscape throughout the seasons, start now by photographing your house and yard from several angles. Then print the photos in as large a scale as you can.
The next step is the fun part. Start looking through native plant catalogs for the plants you want to incorporate. Consider the colors you want to add — when and where. Consider the lines and shapes –height and fullness. Consider the wildlife you want to attract — birds, bees, butterflies. Consider obstructions and distractions — neighboring trees, street lights, sump pump hoses. And finally, consider the harmony between all these elements in the habitat as you lay your choices on your photos. See the various chapters in Wild Ones booklet Landscaping with Native Plants which is stored on the EPA website.
Carrying out your Plan
Fall can actually be a good time of the year to make some changes to your landscape. Photos taken during the seasons can jog your memory for types of plants to be added and locations. Mid-September is usually the latest you would want to transplant native plants and expect them to establish their roots. But you can transplant any time in the fall as long as you make certain to put plenty of compost and mulch around the base. The compost and mulch materials will protect the roots of the dormant plants from frost-heave in the coming spring.
Fall is a great time to pick up discounted leftover plants from local nurseries. Native dogwoods, hawthorns, sumacs, winterberry and other flowering shrubs not only feed the birds, but also provide color during the long, often dreary winter. Evergrees like cedars, firs and arborvitae not only provide shelter for the birds and small critters, but also provide screening from the neighbor’s yard lights. Late blooming native asters and grasses also provide seed and shelter.
October into November is a good time to collect prairie seed to use in your new landscaping. Check with local nature centers or your local Wild Ones chapter for locations of sites. But remember, when gathering seeds, take no more than 30% from the plant. Leave the rest for overwintering insects and germination in the spring.
This is also the time to gather nuts and berries from trees and shrubs. As with gathering prairie seed, do not take more than 30% from a plant. Leave the rest for overwintering insects, birds and other critters and for germination in the spring.
For more information about prairie seed gathering and germinating, and transplanting of native plant species, go to Wild Ones Plant Rescue Guidelines. Note: much of wildones.org educational material is currently off-line, but hopefully will be back up in the not-too-distant future.