How are your fall garden chores progressing? My Part I blog addressed lawn repair and fall insect awareness. In Part II, we concentrate on another major fall garden chore—planting—putting new plants in the ground, transplanting and dividing old plants, and preparing beds for spring.
Trees and shrubs. Fall is the right time to add new plants to the garden. Get them in the ground by mid-October. Their roots will grow all winter and jumpstart the plants before spring. Just be sure to keep new plants watered throughout the winter!
Bulbs. Choose from an amazing variety of colorful, showy bulbs: daffodils, tulips, crocus, and more. Get your spring-blooming bulbs planted in late October or November. Dig summer-blooming bulbs—such as dahlias and caladiums—that won’t overwinter in our climate. See Sally Wheeler’s recent blog on selecting and planting bulbs, Colorful, Showing Garden Additions, for more information:
Perennials. Are your perennials crowded? Are their centers dying out? Now’s the time to divide them—or plant new ones! Divide by digging up whole clumps, then cut or separate them with a spade or knife. Ornamental grasses are an exception. Plant or divide them in late spring.
Annuals. Plant pansies, snapdragons, and ornamental cabbage in September for winter color.
Cool season veggies. Plant a fall vegetable crop in late August to early September. Include lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, rhubarb, garlic, and onions. Spinach will overwinter nicely and give you a good crop in early spring. Keep your tomatoes producing until frost by maintaining your watering and fungicide schedule. Review these two blogs by Debbie Green, Your Fall Vegetable Garden and Edible Alliums for Fall Planting:
You may buy plants in containers that are root bound—especially at the end of the growing season. Be sure to loosen their roots before planting. Use a sharp knife to slice a small amount off the bottom of the root ball. Loosen the side roots by rolling the root ball around in your hands. Cut into the center of the root ball from the bottom and gently pull the roots apart. When you put the plant in the ground, spread the roots outwards in the planting hole. Remove burlap, straps, and wire baskets (or cut away from the root ball) before planting trees and shrubs not container-grown.
Do not plant too deeply. The top of the root ball should be at or just above the surface line of the ground. The planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball, but doesn’t need to be deeper. Break up the dirt you’ve removed from the planting hole into fine particles and reuse it. You do not need to backfill the planting hole with a different soil. Mix in some compost or a soil amendment such as finely ground pine bark. Water to settle the soil and mulch.
See the following NSCU articles which explain correct planting techniques:
Planting Techniques for Trees and Shrubs
Fall is Great for Planting Trees and Shrubs
Prepare spring flower and vegetable beds
Fall is a great time to prepare spring planting beds. Work some organic matter into a raised, tilled bed and let it rest over the winter. The organic matter will continue to decay and enrich the soil. Next spring, you’ll be rewarded with a garden ready to plant!
Article written by Beth Leonard, Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer.