DaffodilsDaffodils

Getting Ready for Next Year: Ten Key Tips For The Fall Garden

by David Salman, Chief Horticulturist & Founder of High Country Gardens

1. Planting bulbs - There is no easier way to color up your spring garden than by planting Spring-blooming bulbs. But bulbs need to be planted in the fall to give them the winter chill they need to stimulate spring blooming. It's best to plant when you've had a frost or two. (If it has been unseasonably warm, bu them now and hold in a cool room 55-60°F until your area has had a frost or two.) Many bulbs are perennials and will naturalize (multiply and spread) when they find your yard to their liking. Spring-blooming bulbs are some of the best low-care plants you can grow, and they're important sources of early-season nectar for hungry honeybees!

2. Garden clean-up - Resist the urge to cut all your ornamental grasses and perennial plants down to the ground in the fall. While I can understand that many gardeners call it a year by trimming back the garden before winter, it's desirable to leave herbaceous plants standing. This provides habitat for beneficial insects, butterflies, and moths that overwinter, hidden and protected in the dead plant stems and leaves. Many ornamental grasses and plants also have ornamental seed heads that provide both winter beauty for us and food for seed-eating songbirds.

Learn more about maximizing your garden's value for habitat: Fall Garden Cleanup: Don't Prune These

3. Finding places to plant more fall bloomers - I'm not sure why, but fall is quite often an overlooked time of the year for landscape color. We have a huge variety of late summer and fall-blooming perennials and ornamental grass to choose from, so the fall garden can be every bit as colorful as the spring garden.

Look around your yard and identify where new late summer and fall bloomers could be planted. Recognize that late-season flowers are also a vitally important nectar source for bees and migrating butterflies and hummingbirds. (Your neighborhood beekeepers will thank you!)

Here are just a few of my late-season favorites color and nectar:

 

The fall garden with Miscanthus sinensis, Goldenrod, and Bald CypressThe fall garden with Miscanthus sinensis, Goldenrod, and Bald Cypress
The fall garden with Miscanthus sinensis, Goldenrod, and Bald Cypress

4. Feeding the Soil - Fall is the ideal time to revitalize your soil. In organic gardening, we "feed the soil to feed our plants." By applying organic and natural fertilizers like compost, Yum Yum Mix (or Yum Yum Mix Winterizer), and Planters II trace mineral mix in the fall, the soil's microbial and earthworm populations will eat these amendments and release ready-to-absorb nutrients for plants to uptake during the spring growth cycle. (Refer to my recent blog on fall fertilizing to learn the specifics.)

5. Mulching - After you've scratched the compost and Yum Yum Mix into the soil, cover and insulate the soil with mulch. I recommend mulching twice annually, as non-gravel mulch materials decompose into the soil over the summer. Thicken up your mulch layer to insulate the soil and prolong underground root growth and microbial digestion of the fertilizers.

6. Watering - Many perennials and woody trees and shrubs appreciate deep soakings every couple of weeks, especially when it's been a warm, dry fall. Fall watering is especially important to this season's transplants. I always give my landscape one last good soaking in early November before I shut off my drip system for the winter months.

It's important to allow succulents such as Delosperma (Ice Plant) to dehydrate over the fall months.It's important to allow succulents such as Delosperma (Ice Plant) to dehydrate over the fall months.
It's important to allow succulents such as Delosperma (Ice Plant) to dehydrate over the fall months

7. Winterizing Cold Tender Plants - We gardeners love a challenge. And for me, one of those challenges is growing plants that aren't typically considered cold hardy for my area. Beautiful hummingbird attracting Salvia (Salvia greggii and greggii hybrids), Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), culinary Rosemary (Rosmarinus), and South African succulents like Ice plant (Delosperma) are some of the plants with which I stretch the boundaries of cold hardiness.

Here are a few ways to overwinter new transplants:

  • Plants being grown in areas at the edge of their cold hardiness, need protection for the first couple of winters to allow them to grow a mature crown (junction of root and stem). Full cold-hardiness comes with maturity. Provide extra insulation to protect these young plants from extreme winter temperatures. I like to mound up pine needles over 6 to 12 inches of the stems. (If pine needles are unavailable, coarse textured leaves from deciduous trees are excellent.) Leave in place until late March, then remove.
  • Don't cut them back. Leave the plant stems standing and cut back in mid-spring. With succulents like Ice plant, it is vitally important to allow them to dehydrate over the fall months by not watering them after September. In wet climates, make sure they are well mulched with gravel so their stems are not in direct contact with bare dirt.

8. Preparing new beds for next year - If you're looking to expand the flower beds in your landscape, dig and prepare them in the fall. Spread ample compost (3 to 4 inch layer), Yum Yum Mix and Planters II and roto-till down to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Come spring, the soil will have broken down the amendments leaving it soft and ready-to-plant.

9. Sowing wildflower seeds - The optimum time to sow perennial wildflower seeds is during the late fall and winter months. Prepare the area by racking off weeds and debris. Then loosen the surface of the soil with a bow rack leaving furrows to accept the seeds. Ideally, you should wait to sow your seed mixes just before a good snow.

10. Collecting seeds - Late summer and fall present motivated gardeners many opportunities to collect seeds from our gardens and surrounding wildlands. I spend a great deal of time harvesting seeds. It's a great way to bring new plant species into your landscape and learn about the life cycles of our garden cultivated and native plants.

Shop Fall-Planted Flower Bulbs

  1. Peppermint Stick Tulip, Tulipa clusiana Peppermint Stick

    'Peppermint Stick' Tulip (Tulipa clusiana) will spice up your mid-spring garden with cheerful color and form. As the blossoms of this species tulip open, the pointed petals alternate...

    Learn More
    Peppermint Stick Tulip Peppermint Stick Tulip Tulipa clusiana Peppermint Stick
    Sale Price I Save 25%
    $12.99 Sale $9.74
    Per Bag of 15
    'Peppermint Stick' Tulip (Tulipa clusiana) will spice up your mid-spring garden with cheerful color and form. As the blossoms of this species tulip open, the pointed petals alternate between snow white and rosy red, uplifting spirits and adding welcome color to the garden. At 12 inches tall, they are most memorable planted in masses or along borders where their colors can mingle and delight.
    Learn More
  2. Magic Carpet Bulb Collection

    Add a layer of charm to your garden with our Magic Carpet Bulb Collection. Pink and purple Wildflower Tulips and yellow and white Crocuses welcome the garden season in early spring w...

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    Magic Carpet Bulb Collection Magic Carpet Bulb Collection
    As low as $36.99 Sale $27.74
    Per Collection of 70
    Add a layer of charm to your garden with our Magic Carpet Bulb Collection. Pink and purple Wildflower Tulips and yellow and white Crocuses welcome the garden season in early spring with warm, bright colors. Flowers naturalize over time, multiplying each season to form beautiful carpets of color. Plant in flower beds or lawns as an essential early season food source for pollinators. Collection of 70 or 210 bulbs.
    Learn More
  3. Spring Is In The Air Bulb Collection

    Our Spring Is In The Air Bulb Collection blooms in a kaleidoscope of color with snowy white, dusky purple, and rich violet and red hues. Miss Saigon Hyacinths and Thalia Daffodils bl...

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    Spring Is In The Air Bulb Collection Spring Is In The Air Bulb Collection
    Sale Price I Save 25%
    $35.99 Sale $26.99
    Per Collection of 49
    Our Spring Is In The Air Bulb Collection blooms in a kaleidoscope of color with snowy white, dusky purple, and rich violet and red hues. Miss Saigon Hyacinths and Thalia Daffodils bloom in mid Spring, followed closely by Slawa Tulips in late spring and Alliums in early summer. This collection delights the senses with sweet scents in the garden, containers, and cut flower bouquets. Collection of 49 bulbs.
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  4. Portuguese Squill, Scilla peruviana

    Portuguese Squill (Scilla peruviana) delivers on spring color with plentiful clusters of tiny pure blue flowers. Easy to grow and long-blooming, Portuguese Squill bridges the season ...

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    Portuguese Squill Portuguese Squill Scilla peruviana
    Sale Price I Save 25%
    $10.99 Sale $8.24
    Per Bag of 1
    Portuguese Squill (Scilla peruviana) delivers on spring color with plentiful clusters of tiny pure blue flowers. Easy to grow and long-blooming, Portuguese Squill bridges the season between late spring and early summer. Plant along the front of a border, in a container, or in a rock garden where the bright blue color can shine. Portuguese Squill will naturalize readily, spreading for more flowers each season.
    Learn More

Text by David Salman.

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