Spring may be special, but fall is fine for planting. Turfgrass, spring-blooming bulbs, cool-season vegetables, perennials, trees, and shrubs can all be effectively planted in the fall.
Fall has distinct planting benefits. Autumn's cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. The soil is still warm, allowing roots to grow until the ground freezes. In spring, plants don't grow until the soil warms up.
Fall has more good days for planting than spring does, when rain and other unpredictable weather can make working the soil impossible. And there's a lot more free time for gardening in autumn than in always-frantic spring.
Plus, the late season is usually bargain time at garden centers that are trying to sell the last of their inventory before winter.
Fall showers are generally plentiful, but it's easy to deeply water plants if it doesn't rain at least an inch per week.
Pests and disease problems fade away in the fall. You don't need fertilizer, either. Fertilizer promotes new, tender growth that can be nipped by winter weather; stop fertilizing by late summer.
The window for fall planting ends about six weeks before your area gets hit with a hard frost, usually September or October.
Use this list for fall planting inspiration.
All spring-blooming bulbs need a period of cold dormancy to bloom. Plant bulbs in fall to ensure a beautiful spring display. If deer or other critters frequent your yard, plant bulbs they don't like to nibble, such as daffodil, crown imperial, grape hyacinth, Siberian squill, allium, fritillaria, English bluebell, dog's-tooth violet, glory-of-the-snow, winter aconite, or snowdrop.
Get bulb planting tips.
Check out these pest-resistant bulbs.
Bulb Planting Basics
Hi, I'm Anne Neyland. I'm here at the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden where we're getting ready to plant bulbs this fall. They're super easy. They're basically all planted the same way. Dig a hole, drop your bulb in, cover `em up with soil, and next spring, you've got beautiful flowers. Alright, so just dive in. Go ahead and dig a hole, drop your bulb in, and cover it up. It's that easy. Now everybody always asks, which end is up? Usually, it's the pointy end, but some bulbs don't even have a point on them. If you're not sure, plant `em on the side. The bulb's gonna know which end to grow up and which end to grow down. If you have a lot of bulbs to plant, here is an idea that will help you out. Go ahead and dig a big hole. This is gonna save you from digging a bunch of individual holes, and you'll have a way to plans a bunch of bulbs at one time. Dig the hole, and go ahead and place your bulbs throughout. If you want, you can even just toss `em in and plant them where they land. If you scatter them throughout, you'll end up with a more natural look in your garden. Go ahead and cover `em over, give `em a little bit of water, and they're ready to go for the spring. So, how deep do you plant bulbs? We get this question all the time. The general rule with them is you wanna plant it about 4 times as deep as the bulb is wide. For example, this daffodil bulb is about 2 inches wide, so you're gonna wanna plant it about 8 inches deep. This crocus bulb is about a half an inch wide, so you're gonna wanna plant it about 2 inches deep. One of the great things about bulbs, is because they're planted at different depths, you can actually plant a lot of `em in the same area and get a beautiful bouquet the next spring. For example, I've layered daffodil bulbs at the bottom of my hole, I've got tulips next, and right now, I'm adding in crocus bulbs at the top. So, next spring, I'm gonna have all three flowers coming up in the same area. You can either pick these flowers and bring them inside for a beautiful bouquet or leave them outside. Either way, you're gonna have a beautiful spring. Another great tip that you can do with bulbs, is to plant them in your lawn. You'll have a great little display of flowers coming up in your grass in the spring. One of the ways to do this, is just toss them out them out into your lawn, and wherever they land, go ahead and plant them. You'll have a real natural look that way rather than planting them in a row. Don't worry about mowing around these flowers, because by the time they're passed, it will be ready to mow. And that's your Test Garden tip.
Fall is the best time to plant pansies because the still-warm soil temperatures give their roots time to establish. By planting in fall, you'll get two seasons of enjoyment out of these cool-season favorites. Remove spent flowers so the plant doesn't use its energy to set seeds, and keep the soil moist. After the soil freezes, mulch plants to prevent alternate freezing and thawing cycles that can heave plants out of the ground.
Learn how to select and grow pansies.
Many vegetables thrive in cool weather, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, and Swiss chard.
Many fall-harvested crops should be planted in early August to give them enough time to mature. Always consult the seed packet to see how many days it takes until maturity, and count backward from your frost date to allow enough time.
Lettuce, spinach, and other greens with a short maturity time can be planted later in the season. Extend the growing season by planting them under floating row covers or cold frames that will shield plants from frost but still allow light, air, and water to penetrate.
Many root crops taste sweeter when they're harvested after frost.
Learn more about cool-season crops.
Continued on page 2: Turfgrass, Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials