When asked which is your favorite season in the garden I say fall! I know it seems like it should be spring when everything comes alive and starts to bloom. But fall weather is a great time to access your garden's needs. Is there a corner or planting bed that needs some color or is there a dead spot? The time is also right for planting perennials
I reworked a bed 2 years ago in September, making it into a perennial bed. The weather is perfect for planting and getting perennials in the ground in the south. Planting now will give perennial roots a good start. This is also a good time to pick up bargain plants. At the end of the season you can find great discounts on plants that are past their peak. You will often find these plants reduced 50 - 75%. This is when I like to get my perennials. I check the clearance rack before looking at fresh plants! The plants are super cheap because they look so pitiful and are often at deaths door! If a plant looks like it has a hint of life left I will bring it home as long as it looks bug and disease free. I will occasionally find a plant I can't bring back to life but the price can't be beat!
Frost is not the problem you might think it would be in Fall. Especially here in the south, where frost don't come until around Thanksgiving and the soil doesn't freeze until much later. Even if frost kills the tops of the plants it won't affect root growth. Roots will continue to grow until the soil freezes. In the spring it takes a while for the soil to warm up so the roots of plants grow very slowly. In the fall the soil is still warm allowing the roots to grow faster. Since they aren't using energy to produce flowers all that energy can go into root development. You can get your plants off to a good start by planting in good soil and keeping watered during dry spells.
To give your bargain plants a fighting chance give them a good soaking when you get them home. Set them in a tray or saucer to catch the water that runs through the pot, allowing the roots to soak up the water. Then plant as you would any healthy plant. They will need less water because of the lower temperatures and shorter days in the fall. But if rain is really scarce keep them watered until the soil freezes. Remember the roots are still growing.
Even if a few of your new plants don't make it, you can still come out ahead and it will give you a jump on spring gardening!