Though spring is the time we associate with planting our gardens, fall is really the best of all. The plants get off to a better start than they do in the spring.
Many kinds of plants are suitable for fall planting from perennials and cold-tolerant veggies to spring flowering bulbs and woody plants.
In general its best to plant perennials and woody plants at least six to eight weeks before winter arrives. This gives them time to get settled in and make good root growth. Those planted in the fall will need watering if the weather is especially dry. During the winter when they’re dormant, they don’t require much water. However, I still wouldn’t let them dry out completely. They’re less likely to survive the winter if they become dry.
As with spring plantings, I always like to add a layer of mulch around the crown of each plant. It shouldn’t actually touch the leaves or stems. This mulch will keep the soil moist so less watering is needed. And it keeps the ground warm so the new plants can continue to grow longer in the fall.
What fall plantings don’t need is fertilizer. The exception is fall planted bulbs. Formulas that are high in nitrogen (the first number listed on the container) is particularly bad. The plants aren’t growing enough to need fertilizer at this time. The fertilizer only encourages growth that won’t be sufficiently hardened off in time for winter. Its best to fertilize in the spring and summer.
Some folks refer to fall as the second season because it is an excellent time to plant a late vegetable garden. Most all of the cold-tolerant veggies do especially well in the fall months. My mother always said the fall mustard was much better. The cold nights sweetened it, and made it less susceptible to bugs.
Even the arugula is milder because it can get really sharp tasting if exposed to summer heat. Some herbs also grow well in the cool weather. These include ones in the onion family, cilantro, chervil, dill, and parsley. They are less likely to bolt and go to seed in the fall.
One other group of plants can be planted in the fall. Those are the seeds of some annuals. I plant these in the fall because it is more convenient to do so. When I plant them in the fall, I do so knowing they won’t come up until the following spring. But the advantage is that they can get an early start next spring. Otherwise, I may be too busy and plant them so late in the spring that they don’t get to bloom until late summer. Cosmos, borage, and cornflower are examples of hardy annuals that can be planted in the fall. I just scatter the seeds on the ground, and during the winter months they work their way in through the mulch. Then next spring when the ground is warm enough, it will germinate on its own. So I don’t have to give them another thought.
During the fall of the year it is easy to renew our relationship with nature through our enjoyment with the lovely wildflowers around us.