Autumn Planting Tips
Fall is generally a great time to plant
Autumn is just fine for planting. In fact, it is the preferred time for many gardeners. It's easy to see where you might need to put a new perennial or shrub, most pests have run their course for the season and the days are cooler while the soil is still warm.
Spring can be a hectic time for most gardeners, so why not save some chores for the autumn months? Here are some of my autumn planting tips.
- Perennials and shrubs are generally less expensive at garden centers in the autumn months, especially from those garden centers who do not overwinter their plants.
- Soil temperatures are warm allowing roots to grow well before winter sets in. Make sure all new plants are in the ground at least 6 weeks before your ground typically freezes for the winter. An early light frost shouldn't harm a perennial or shrub, but you want the plants in the ground for many weeks before true winter sets in.
- Many areas of the country begin to get regular precipitation in the fall to make it easier to keep new plants hydrated. Remember that the roots are contained within the root ball for many weeks, so watering regularly for the first few weeks is important. Once the roots venture out into the surrounding soil, the plants can go a little longer between watering.
- Late summer into fall is a good time to decide what plants you might want to add to your garden because the look and growth of your garden is still fresh in your mind. You may have lost some plants over the summer and now have a bare spot, or maybe you want to add additional colors or foliage plants.
- Autumn is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. It's also a great time to see where they can be planted so you don't accidentally plant them too close to perennials. Wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently in the 50s so they don't sprout prematurely. Find out how to plant bulbs here.
- Fall is a great time for planting trees and shrubs because they are going dormant so they can concentrate on growing roots and not sustaining leaves, flowers or fruit. See some of my favorite flowering trees here and some of my favorite flowering shrubs here.
- When planting in the fall, there is no need for added fertilizers as this would promote top growth or leaf growth, which you don't want to do. Simply put your plant into the ground, surround the roots with the existing soil and water well. Then top dress the soil around the plant with an inch or so of compost and you are done.
- Planting in the fall can mean that your chosen perennial can reach maturity by the end of it's first summer. Fall planted perennials generally have a more developed root system so they look better their first growing season. Spring planted perennials can struggle, especially if it gets hot quickly or you have a short growing season. You can also get away with planting smaller plants in the fall; they are less expensive and transplant well.
- If you are planting a perennial that generally blooms in late summer and fall, you may want to wait to plant it until after the blooms have faded or wait and plant it in the spring. Blooming takes a lot out of a plant, so I generally like to plant or divide spring flowering perennials in the fall and late summer and fall blooming varieties in the spring.
- Fall is an excellent time to divide spring and early summer flowering perennials to create new plants to spread around your garden or give to friends. Find out more about dividing perennials here.
- Fall is also a great time to spread compost around all your plants. It will slowly feed the soil over winter and initially will act as a light mulch. Autumn is also a perfect time to start a compost pile of your own since organic material is plentiful. Find out everything you need to know about composting here.
- If you grow edibles, fall is a great time to grow plants that like cool weather such as greens, lettuce, broccoli and more. If your summer garden didn't do so well, you get a second chance during the cooler months. Find out more about cool season crops here.
- Don't forget annuals in the fall. There are many beautiful flowering annuals that can handle a frost or two. See some of my favorites here.
- My final tip for the day is to start a no-dig gardening bed in the fall so that it will be ready for planting in the spring. See how to make one here.