It’s officially fall!
Here in Michigan, when someone mentions fall, we get these visions of cider mills, leaves changing color and falling, kids going back to school and days when you wear a coat in the morning and shorts by noon. What most people don’t envision is planting a garden.
Wait? Planting? Garden? In the fall?! Yes, not only is that actually a thing but there are several things that can be effectively planted in the fall, including turfgrass, spring-blooming bulbs, cool-season vegetables, perennials, trees and shrubs. Ornamental cabbages and asters are some of our favorite fall plantings!
The cooler air temperatures tend to be easier on not just you but also your plants. The soil is still warm enough that the roots can take until the ground starts to freeze. Fall also has more good days for being out planting than the spring does when we get hit with near-constant rain. Don’t forget that there are fewer pests and less disease as those tend to fade away into the fall.
You’ll want to stop fertilizing in late summer, though, as it promotes new growth which is tender and can be easily nipped by the harsher winter weather. The window for fall planting is around six weeks before the hard frost starts, typically sometime in late September or later. Of course, in years such as this, it has the potential to go much longer!
Examples of some items that do well with fall planting include daffodils, pansies, ornamental cabbage, kale, lettuce, turfgrass, perennials (especially those with large root balls!) and some shrubs and trees.
Just remember the following:
Any fall-planted perennials should be watered until the ground freezes. Don’t overwater, but make sure the plants get at least an inch of water one time per week.
Fall is the best time to plant pansies because the still-warm soil temperatures give their roots time to establish. By planting in fall, you’ll get two seasons of enjoyment out of these cool-season favorites. Remove spent flowers so the plant doesn’t use its energy to set seeds, and keep the soil moist. After the soil freezes, mulch plants to prevent alternate freezing and thawing cycles that can heave plants out of the ground.
Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. The weather is cool but the soil is still warm enough for root development. Before digging, check with your local utility companies to locate any underground lines. Always plant trees and shrubs at their natural soil lines. Keep newly planted trees or shrubs well watered until the ground freezes so they get a good start before going into full dormancy during winter.
Many fall-harvested crops should be planted in early August to give them enough time to mature. Always consult the seed packet to see how many days it takes until maturity, and count backward from your frost date to allow enough time.
Lettuce, spinach, and other greens with a short maturity time can be planted later in the season. Extend the growing season by planting them under floating row covers or cold frames that will shield plants from frost but still allow light, air, and water to penetrate.
Plus, many root crops taste sweeter when they’re harvested after frost!