Gardening in the Fall is not all about raking leaves and putting your gardens to bed for the winter. Fall is an amazing time to work in your flower beds, and you can even grow some vegetables too. The air is crisp and cool, so both the plants and the gardener are content. In this post we share lots of fall gardening tips and ideas for both your flower and vegetable gardens.
Fall is perfect for getting a jumpstart on your spring garden. The cool temperatures are conducive to helping new perennials, trees, shrubs and even divisions from plants become established in their new home. The hustle of tending the gardens has mostly quieted down. Plus, late summer and early fall can be a great time to find trees, shrubs and perennials at clearance prices.
I know some gardeners are tired of gardening by the end of summer, but I encourage you to rally and keep right on gardening into Fall. You won’t be sorry you did.
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Fall Gardening Tips to Get a Head Start on Spring
Although gardeners mostly think of Fall as a time to wrap things up in the garden, did you know that it’s also a great time to begin. Yes, your plants are getting ready to go dormant for the winter months, but there are so many things we can get done in our gardens to get a jumpstart on the next gardening season.
Fall is the perfect time to reassess what’s working in your gardens and what isn’t working. It’s the perfect time to take those failures and successes and plan your gardens for next year. If you would like to take your garden planning to the next level, I encourage you to check out – Garden Planning (How to Plan Next Year’s Garden) when you finish up here.
Do you know that Fall is the only time a gardener can plant spring flowering bulbs to add color to your landscape and gardens next spring. If you don’t have have any spring flowers, like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and many more, this is the year for you to add some to your landscape and gardens. You will not regret it!
Clearing out space for a new garden bed is best if done in Fall, then next spring you’ll have a blank space to work with. There are many ways to do this, so be sure to check out the post and learn which way works best for you. Plus, you can work on designing the new garden bed on paper over the winter.
Sowing Flower Seeds in Fall
Have you ever collected seeds from your plants to sow again next spring? Did you know that many of those seeds can be sown in the fall. As a bonus, many seed companies have their seeds on sale in the fall to clear out this year’s stock.
Flower Seeds to Sow in Fall
Most flower gardeners will find surprise seedlings in their garden every spring. These surprise plants are from seeds that fell to the ground from your current flowers. Likewise, you can simply scrape back mulch, loosen up the soil and sprinkle seeds on the soil surface where you want that particular plant to grow.
Fall is a great time to sow biennial flower (foxglove, hollyhock, sweet William, etc) seeds. If your biennial plant flowered this year that means it’s done and the only chance for more of the same is if the plant goes to seed. I like to help my biennials along by planting some seeds in the area I want them.
Some annual flowers can also be grown this way. Morning glories, snapdragons and dianthus to name a few.
Sowing flower seeds in the fall is a gamble and doesn’t always render 100% success, but there’s nothing to lose except some seeds.
Botanical Interests (my favorite seed company) has a bunch of annual and perennial flower seeds that have a high probability of germinating over winter.
Fall is for Planting Perennial Flowers
Not only is fall a good time to transplant and divide perennials from your gardens, but it’s also a great time to add new perennials to your gardens. Many garden centers have perennials available at clearance prices.
Your new plants, transplants and plant divisions will need to be in the ground and fairly established before a hard freeze. It’s important to know that even though the air is cooler, your new plants will still need ample water until they become established. It’s also important to add fresh compost when planting perennials. The organic matter will help them to take off quickly. While perennials, trees and shrubs planted in the fall won’t be flowering, or putting out new foliage, they are putting all their energy in growing a strong root system. So don’t just plant and think you’re done.
Vegetable Gardening during the Fall Season
Did you know in most gardening zones, you can also plant cool weather vegetable crops in late summer/early fall for a fall harvest. Some fall crops can survive a light frost. In fact, a light frost will sweeten a lot of veggies. Root vegetables are protected from frost altogether.
The best vegetables or cool weather crops for fall planting include:
- Lettuce and other leafy greens
- Swiss chard
- Green Beans
- Brussel sprouts*
- Brussel sprouts*
*Look for seedlings or starter plants at your local garden center.
When planning fall vegetables, to insure that you have enough time, look for seed varieties that have a shorter maturity date. Usually something less than 60 days, especially if you’re in a colder hardiness zone. Consider growing your fall harvest vegetables in containers. My container gardens are right outside on my patio and being close by makes it easier to care for them. Also if an early frost is in the forecast, you can cover the containers. This frost cloth comes in lots of different sizes.
When to Plant Vegetables for a Fall Harvest
This requires a little guess-work and math, but don’t worry, it’s easy. First look at your seed packet to determine the number of days until maturity. Next, determine your approximate frost date (see the link below). Then using a calendar to count back from the first frost date the number of days until maturity, and then you have the estimated date to plant your veggies. I usually add 7-10 days to the first frost date, because a light frost won’t kill the veggies listed above.
To extend your gardening season in the fall, consider adding a pop up greenhouse. Pop up greenhouses are a great way to extend your gardening season both in the spring and in the fall. Row covers and cold frames work great too for extending the growing season into late fall.
A Few More Things To Keep In Mind for Gardening in the Fall
It’s important to know your estimated first frost date. The link will take you to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website where you can enter your zip code to determine your first estimated frost date.
Knowing the first frost date for your area will help you plan. It’s also important to note that the first frost date doesn’t mean the first hard freeze. There are many plants that survive a few frosts, so don’t think the first frost date for your area is the cutoff for fall gardening.
Don’t forget to water your young plants and transplants. Water is vital to help perennials, trees and shrubs get established before winter sets in. One year I purchased several perennials on clearance and planted them. However, things got busy (life happens) and I didn’t water those new plants as much as they should have been and many did not survive winter.
Once you are deeper into Fall, preparing your gardens for winter is an important step to protect your gardening investment. Check out Fall Garden Cleanup to get all the steps and tips to put your gardens to bed for winter. The post also includes a free printable checklist.
Do you agree that fall weather makes it a perfect time of year to garden? Do you have additional tips or ideas for gardening in the fall? If so, please leave a comment below.
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