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Top 10 Basics of Fall Gardening

Top 10 Basics of Fall Gardening

If you’re new to gardening—and even if you’re not—you may not have heard that fall is the ultimate gardening season. Almost everything gets planted in the fall. Certainly, there are plants that can (and should) go in the ground during other times of the year, but the fall is a unique time in the growing year to get a lot of things done. So whether you’ve been gardening for one month or 30 years, here’s a great list of the basic tasks you can do in the autumn garden.

Why Is Fall Such a Great Gardening Season?

Fall is an ideal time to plant not only because of the cooler temps that both plants and humans love, but because you’re giving your new plants an entire season (winter) to focus on developing strong, healthy, deep roots before being asked to rise and shine in the spring.

Fall-planted plants grow comparatively larger than their spring-planted friends, unless of course, it’s recommended to grow said plant in the spring. When the roots are established and deep, the plant has a better chance to thrive and resist diseases and pests, bloom better, and stay healthier. Need more info? Read “Why Fall Is the Best Season for Planting in Your Garden.”

Top 10 Basics of Fall Gardening

Pro tip before you even start planting: Find out what is the best time to plant in your area. It’s different depending upon where you live, and you might be disappointed if you plant too soon or too late. Ask your county extension office or look online for a planting schedule for your area, then pinky-promise you’ll follow it. Okay, now onto the fun stuff:

  1. Plant bulbs. Well, of course, you knew we’d start out with bulbs, right? Oh, the many bulbs you can plant in the fall! From tulips to amaryllis, bearded iris, alliums, crocus, daffodils, freesia (for warmer climates), lilies, hyacinth, and more. They’re little miracles that seem to be doing nothing for months only to explode in color and fragrance in the spring. Trust us, you’ve gotta plant some bulbs this fall.

  2. Plant trees and shrubs. In some milder climates you can actually plant trees and shrubs in the winter, but again, prime time is the fall for these garden features.

  3. Start a compost pile. It’s not difficult, and will cut down on what you throw out, and your garden will love you for it. Not sure how? Read “A Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Composting.”

  4. Mulch your garden. A 3-inch layer of mulch helps to maintain soil moisture, suppress weeds, control erosion, and set off your plants to perfection. Fall is the best time because you want to mimic Mother Nature when she drops leaves from the trees. Use whatever mulch is native to your area, whether it’s shredded hardwood or pine needles. Want to mulch your bulbs? Great idea! Read “How to Mulch Bulbs” and you’re good to go.

  5. Amend your soil. Plants simply won’t grow (or grow as well) in bad soil. Rocky soil, clay soil, sandy soil—they all have problems regulating water or retaining nutrients. Know what type of soil you have (your county extension office will help you out there or you can do your own soil test) and then develop a schedule for adding soil amendments like compost to your planting beds. Happy soil = happy plants.

  6. Plant cool-season veggies. Nom, nom, nom! Who loves salad greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, spinach, and all manner of root veggies? So do we! So get those cool-season veggies in the ground—and check out “Fall-Planted Veggies” as your guide.

  7. Decorate for the holidays. Fall garden decorating is just so much dang fun, it would be a shame to miss out on it! Go full-on with hay bales, twinkle lights, potted annuals, and pumpkins galore, then transition into a more festive garden décor with the same twinkle lights, wreaths, topiaries, and annuals.

  8. Overwinter plants. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll need to bring in those potted plants, dig up and store your tender bulbs, take cuttings from plants you want to save, and gather and store seeds to plant next year. If you’re a newbie gardener, simply focus on moving your potted plants inside to a protected area and you’ll be fine.

  9. Plant perennials. Flowering perennials are the workhorses of most gardens, and fall is the perfect time to plant them. Again, you’ll want to double check the appropriate times for planting perennials like astilbe, coreopsis, coneflower, penstemon, aster, salvia, and sedum.

  10. Up your houseplant game. Since many people don’t garden over the coldest winter months, houseplants are the way to go to keep you busy. Pick up some easy-to-grow indoor plants now to get them established, and then try potting up some holiday bulbs like amaryllis, paperwhites, and cyclamen.

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  • Jenny Peterson