As the leaves start to change and we prepare for much of our garden to go dormant in just a few short months, planting might not be the first thing on your mind this fall. Most of us consider planting a spring activity, and while that remains true, the cool, comfortable temperatures of autumn provide great conditions for many plants! The key is knowing what you can plant, and when!
The reason that spring planting is considered so ideal is that it allows for the maximum amount of time for your plant to grow and establish itself before winter comes. But for many plants, this lengthy period just isn't necessary! Plus, growing your garden in autumn offers several advantages.
During fall, your garden duties are likely winding down, and your list of chores certainly isn't as long as it is in the spring, leaving you with some extra time for making new additions. Like spring, fall also offers moderate temperatures and generous rainfall, leading to the cool, moist soils that are ideal for stimulating root growth. Consider that spring-planting doesn't come without its own challenges-tending to your new plants during a particularly hot summer in North Dakota can be demanding!
The key to fall growing is to give your new plants adequate time to establish before the ground freezes. Many plants are quite content with about 6-8 weeks to dig their roots before the first hard frost, but it can vary, so always check the instructions first. In general, we recommend doing your fall planting from mid-August to late-September here in Bismarck, so if you haven't done any yet, now is the time!
Perennials, by nature, are already tough enough to withstand North Dakota's cold, snowy winters, so it should come as no surprise that quite a few of them are fine with fall planting, too.
Trees and shrubs that can be transplanted in autumn are sold in containers or with burlap-wrapped root balls. You'll find many common trees, such as maples, spruces, pines, and even crabapple trees, as well as some of your favorite shrubs, like hostas, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas, lining the shelves of garden centers at this time of year. Since they already have a root system established, it doesn't take quite as long for them to settle into their new homes in the ground.
Simply dig a hole twice as wide as the container, and deep enough so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the ground. Remember to remove the burlap, first! Keep new trees and shrubs well-watered so they can conserve enough moisture for the winter.
Flowering perennials that are early bloomers, like coreopsis and dianthus, are great choices for autumn growing since they'll be ready to pop up in your garden all on their own when spring arrives! The same goes for late bloomers like garden phlox, sedum, pansies, and peonies-set them in the ground the fall before, and you'll likely get blooms during your first growing season!
Be careful not to confuse fall-bloomers with fall-growers. Chrysanthemums, for example, are classic fall-blooming perennials that are known for adding vibrant color to autumn landscapes. However, it's best to plant them in the spring to give them adequate time to establish before winter.
While your peppers and tomatoes might thrive in the heat of summer, other veggies prefer to sit back, relax and take a break from expending any energy in the hot sun (we can relate, right?). Cool-season vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, peas, and leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, kale, and lettuce are all suitable for a second harvest, later in the year. While we can't really get away with planting these guys in fall, we can set them in late summer for an autumn harvest.
Our edible bulbs, like onion and garlic, actually need the cold season chill to kickstart their growth when the soil starts to warm. Get them in the ground by late summer to ensure a tasty spring ahead.
Not only is it OK to plant spring-blooming bulbs in the fall, but it's really the ideal time to do so! These bulbs actually need to go through a chill period while they're dormant in order to bloom in the spring. While the rest of your garden just kind of tolerates the winter weather, your spring-blooming bulbs are absolutely thriving in it!
Flower bulbs to plant in the fall include spring classics such as tulips and daffodils, and other beauties like allium and snowdrop. Make sure you set them in September or early October for the best chance at surviving the winter, and water them well afterwards. Fall bulbs don't need any additional fertilizers mixed in with their soils as they're already fully-equipped to produce a stunning spring display. However, you can sprinkle some bulb fertilizer on the top of the ground if you want to get a head start on encouraging the second year's blooms.
Although summer is nearing an end, it's not time to put away the garden spade quite yet! There are plenty of great plants that enjoy the crispness of autumn just as much as we do and will perform better after getting started in those cool, moist soils. Stop by our garden center and check out our selection of trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables that are still waiting to find a new home this season!