Just like spring, fall is ideal for planting. Why? Because the cooler temperatures, rainfall, and short, bright days will help plants make a fast and easy transition to your landscape. In fact, the entire first half of autumn gives them the opportunity to grow roots and settle into their dirt-y home. But before you get into your car and drive to the nearest garden or home improvement center, you should know what to plant in the fall to ensure you’ll have a bountiful spring harvest. Keep reading to learn more.
A Lesson on Fall Planting
Yikes! You only have a six-week window before your ground freezes. Once it does, root growth goes dormant until spring. Why six weeks? Because it allows plants time to get acclimated to withstand the cold and snow. However, when your ground actually freezes will vary from year-to-year. In fact, you may find that you don’t have frozen ground at all. Just let it go and wait to plant until mid-November because it’s a safe planting deadline for most areas. As long as your plants are in the ground before it freezes, you’re good.
Speaking of freezing ground. Any plants you have in nursery pots should be in the ground before winter. Don’t worry because it’s good for them to be planted and protected in the ground rather than in plastic pots that can crack and split. You can always move your plants in the spring to a better location. Also, make sure you water them after planting and continue to do so until your ground freezes. Even though fall can be rainy, your plants may require additional water. They may also need a lot of mulch to keep them insulated. Not only will it protect your plants, but will provide them with a great environment to develop roots.
When it comes to fall planting, it’s important to give your plants a chance to experience root growth, which goes on until temperatures average 48-degrees Fahrenheit. Come spring, you’ll see and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
What to Plant in the Fall!
If you’re a seasoned gardener, you may be worn out from gardening by the time fall rolls around. If you’re a beginner, fall may be the best time for you start because of the cool weather. Whatever the case, it’s easy to plant bulbs in the ground or pots or planters on your patio. And quite frankly, nothing soothes the soul like seeing snowdrops peeking through the snow. With all of this in mind, let’s dig into what to plant in the fall!
Lett-uce (get it) talk about planting this tasty and leafy main attraction of a green salad. Keep in mind that butterhead and romaine tolerate the cold. Sow lettuce seeds in pots or garden beds eight weeks before your area’s first fall frost. Stagger your sowings at least two weeks apart. When you reach the four-week mark before your area’s first frost, sow your lettuce.
Like garlic? The best harvest is during fall planting. Plant your bulbs quickly, so the roots have time to grow. However, you don’t want to plant them too early because they may sprout through the soil. Plant garlic about four to six weeks before your ground freezes. Once planted, add a heavy layer of straw because it will protect and insulate the soil, support worm activity, and further root growth.
Are you a fan of The Office? If you are, then you know that Dwight Schrute, the highest-ranking salesman, and assistant to the regional manager at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company may have been onto something with his beet plantation. Beets are great to plant in the fall. The trick is to soak the seeds overnight for quicker germination.
There’s a reason why Brussels sprouts are on menus and dining room tables during the holidays: they hold up in an early frost. This makes them a perfect addition to your fall garden. Brussels sprouts are also low in cholesterol and saturated fat and a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins A and B6. See that. Your mom was on to something when she told you to eat your Brussels sprouts!
Plant collard greens in the early fall so you can harvest them for winter. Plant them in moist and fertile soil in rows at least three feet apart. Collards actually taste better after frost exposure, have many vitamins, and taste great in stir-fries.
Radishes are easy to grow and add color to your salad! Plant them four to six weeks before the average date of the last frost in your area. Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep and one inch apart in rows 12-inches apart. After they sprout, thin to about 2-inch spacings, so they have room to grow. Keep in mind that radishes need sun, so do not plant them in too much shade. Plant them consecutively every two weeks (or so) while temperatures are still cool for a continuous harvest.
One thing to remember is that you’ll have to water your planted vegetables. Check out our blog post, Tips for Watering Your Garden, because some may require more water than others. And here’s a vegetable planning guide that gives you more ideas on what to plant in the fall.
Perennials can live for more than two years, and they’re less work than annuals that only grow for one season. For instance, hostas can be divided and replanted. Peonies don’t require much work and can be planted or transplanted in the fall. They thrive in a variety of climates and soil and need partial to full sun. To grow peonies, avoid planting them too deep. Water them carefully (at least one time each week) until your ground freezes, but avoid overwatering.
Snowdrops are delicate bell-shaped flowers that face downward on thin green stems. Plant (mix a garden fertilizer rich in nutrients into the soil) them in groups under deciduous trees such as oak, maple, hickory, and white ash, so they get sunlight in the spring and shade in the summer when they go dormant. You may also plant snowdrops around evergreens or in open spaces in a rock garden or perennial flower bed. Deep freezes and snowfall don’t affect them, they multiply easily, are deer-resistant (instant pest control) and can handle the shade or full sun.
If you want a colorful spring, plant hardy fall bulbs such as anemone, crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, iris, and tulip because they can tolerate the cold. To create a unique look, plant several varieties with different bloom times and enjoy their beauty throughout spring.
Lawns, Trees, and Shrubs
Would you like to reduce your water bill? Then here’s what to plant in the fall: low-water grass. If you live in the North, fertilize bluegrass, ryegrass, or a fescue blend like Eco-Lawn in early September and in late October. If you live in the South, don’t feed dormant warm-season grasses such as Bahiagrass and St. Augustinegrass. Till your soil eight inches deep, top it with a three to four-inch layer of compost (you may use organic), till again, water thoroughly, let the soil settle for a few days, and then sow your grass seed.
As for trees, you may plant buckeye, crabapple, hawthorn, elm, maple, pines, sycamore, spruces, and ash in the fall. The types of shrubs you can plant in the fall are oakleaf hydrangea, rhododendron, smoke bush, spirea, and Camellia sasanqua. If you plant a slope or hillside, create a berm (mounded hills of dirt) on the declining side of tree or shrub because it will catch rainwater and any runoff as it moves downhill.
Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs because the weather is cool and the soil is still warm for roots to develop. But before you start digging and planting, contact your local utility companies so that you don’t dig up an underground line. Dig a hole two to three feet wider than the plant or shrub root ball, so the roots have plenty of room to grow. Water them until the ground freezes in your area to ensure they have a good start before going dormant during the winter. Also, add a two to three-inch layer of mulch around the base of shrubs to ward off any weeds and ensure that the soil retains moisture.
Fall Planting: What Will Be in Your Garden?
Now that you know what to plant in the fall, the only decision you have to make is what actually to plant. You may want to determine your “hardiness zone” because it can help you decide what to plant in the fall. To discover your zone, use the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. Enter your zip code, and the results will show your hardiness zone along with what you may plant and when. However, the hardiness zone map should be used as a guideline because the weather is fickle. There may be years when the planting season is extended so that you may plant more veggies, trees, shrubs, and flowers than you thought possible. Use your best judgment. Happy planting!