Benefits of Fall Planting
Early fall is a great time to get back out in the garden to plant your favorite perennials, shrubs and trees. I know what you are thinking; "I planted everything back in the spring and I'm done until next year." That's what most people think, but a budding gardener like yourself should realize all of the benefits of planting in the fall.
Let me explain.
First, and most importantly, is the mild weather. Every outdoors fanatic and gardener loves this time of year! Not too hot, not too cold. And guess what, your plants love it too, and for the very same reason. If you take the time to plant hardy perennials during these pleasant temperatures they can focus all of their energy on root growth. Don't be surprised when you don't see much happening to the plant. The real work is going on underground. Down there the plant is busy developing strong, thick, feeder roots.
Those are the roots that will be ready to bring water and nutrients up to the top of the plant in the spring and give your garden a big head start over the neighbor's garden. Make sure you give your new additions a chance to get good and cozy before winter comes. You should allow six to eight weeks for trees and shrubs, and four to six weeks for perennials and ornamental grasses. A good rule of thumb is to plant by the end of September in the North and by the end of November in the South.
Secondly, is watering. The cooler daytime temperatures and mild nights will reduce the amount of water your garden needs. This will be a blessing to your checkbook after trying to keep the grass green all summer. Immediately after planting, give the plant a good long drink. Add enough water so that it soaks all the way down below the depth of the plant. Then, keep an eye on it and water as needed to prevent the soil from completely drying out. Always be sure to plant in a well-drained area. Over watering or lack of drainage can cause as many problems as under watering.
Third is fertilizing. You don't have to do it until spring! How easy is that? Fertilizing this late in the year could stimulate a flush of tender growth that may not have time to harden off before cold temperatures arrive and could be subjected to winter damage. Stop fertilizing all of your plants by September 1. This allows the plants plenty of time to comfortably harden off and enter a dormant state for winter.
And the fourth benefit is cost. Most garden centers and nurseries will have many plants for sale at discounted prices this time of year. Be sure to look over the plants carefully for signs of pest or disease damage, and don't buy anything that looks unhealthy or improperly cared for. While you're there, buy some mulch to put around the plant. The mulch will help maintain even soil temperatures and resist root heaving that occurs after repetitive freezing and thawing of the ground.
So, now that you know that fall planting is easy, inexpensive, and most importantly beneficial to the plants, take a few hours to get the drop on your neighbors and raise your garden to the next level!
Lifting and Storing Bulbs
So, you enjoyed the beautiful bulbs in your garden throughout the season and would love to see them back in your garden next year. Gardeners in zones 8 and colder can get the best value from their summer-blooming bulbs and enjoy them year after year by taking a little time at the end of each growing season to lift and store the bulbs. Like all fall gardening, a little work at the end of the season really pays off at the beginning of the next.
The time to lift and store your bulbs is near end of fall or beginning of winter. The plant will let you know the exact time with yellowing or dying foliage. Use a spading fork or shovel to lift the bulbs from beneath the soil. Brush away any soil that clings to the bulbs.
Cut any remaining foliage 1-2 inches above the tops of the bulbs. Dry the bulbs for two to three days in a shaded location by spreading them on a newspaper. Bulbs not allowed to dry out properly may rot, so don't skimp on this step! Place bulbs in peat moss, sawdust, sand, perlite or vermiculite inside a well ventilated container. Containers like paper bags, cardboard boxes, or very loose knit sacks work well, but avoid non-breathable plastic food containers or sealable storage bags. Once stored, you may not be able to recognize the different types of bulbs so be sure to clearly label each container
. Store the containers in a cool, dry, dark location like an unheated garage, basement, or utility room. If storing containers in a refrigerator, keep them away from any fruits or vegetable as the ethylene gas produced by the edibles can cause bulbs to break dormancy prematurely. Be sure that air can circulate around your stored bulbs.
Inspect your bulbs once a month for signs of disease or mildew. Discard any bulbs that are undersized, spotted, or are not firm.
Planting Bulbs in the Fall for a Beautiful Spring Display
Spring bulbs are one of the most welcomed sights in gardening. September through November, as the temperature begins to cool, is the perfect time to prepare an exciting spring show by planting daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, and tulips. The best time to plant depends on your zone. If you live in the Northern United States you should get your bulbs in the ground closer to the end of September. If you live in the Southern United States you should plant your bulbs closer to the end of November. If you're unsure if you should plant your bulbs in September, October or November, err on the side of caution and plant in late September or early October.
As spring approaches and your bulbs explode from the ground in masses of color, they begin the growing season and assure us that milder weather is on the way. Gardeners are lucky that these harbingers of springtime are both beautiful and forgiving.
Bulbs provide a foolproof floral display that brightens gardens, feeds the newly awakened bumblebee queens, and lifts our spirits. Selecting from the myriad of species and varieties is the hardest part. Once you have the bulbs, all that's left is proper placement and planting.
Choose a site where they will receive at least part sun throughout the spring. They look beautiful growing beneath deciduous trees, and there they will receive ample sunlight before the trees leaf out. Areas of constant shade, like the north side of a building, will not work as well because the plants need some sun to make food for future flowers. Also choose a spot with good drainage or the bulbs may rot. Amend poorly drained, heavy soils with organic matter to improve tilth and drainage. Alternatively, many gardeners simply plant bulbs in raised beds or berms.
The ideal planting depth depends on the size of the bulb. The general rule is to plant three times as deep as the bulb is wide. That means about 4 to 6 inches deep for small bulbs like snowdrops, crocuses, and scillas, and about 8 inches deep for large bulbs like hybrid tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Typically, smaller bulbs are spaced at about 16 per square foot and larger ones around 9 per square foot; but for maximum impact gardeners can plant them closer as long as they are not touching.
Planted en masse, the exuberant colors of spring bulbs make a grand statement. Because more is better, the shovel is my preferred planting tool. I can get more bulbs in the ground for less work. To duplicate the mass effect in your garden, buy fewer types of bulbs in larger quantities as opposed to many types of bulbs in fewer numbers. For example, instead of buying 10 bulbs each of five different types of tulips, buy 50 'Hemisphere' tulips for a dazzling display. Order with friends so you can share leftover bulbs and help each other dig.
Once they are planted, the gardener's work is done. The bulbs develop throughout winter, and with no assistance from us, start sprouting in early spring. All that's left for the gardener to do is admire the flowers and cut a few for vases.
Spring bulbs are especially stunning when combined with other spring flowers. Add them under crab apple trees, amidst wildflowers, and alongside spring annuals for memorable combinations. Also interplant them with each other. Placing crocus with mid-season daffodils and late tulips gives a succession of blooms from one planting. Or choose varieties that bloom at the same time for a vivid explosion of flowers.
For the novice and master gardener spring bulbs are great plants. Whether you are growing a common 'Carlton' daffodil or a not-so-common fritillaria, success is easy. Even beginners can feel confident to experiment with new and exciting varieties. Start planning and selecting now for a spectacular spring.
Tips for spring bulbs:
  • Order in mass for an eye-popping display.
  • Add organic matter/compost to the soil for nutrients and drainage.
  • Wear gloves when handling bulbs.
  • Plant bulbs immediately when they arrive or store in a cool, dark, dry place.
  • Place shorter-growing bulbs in the front of beds and borders.
  • Try to have everything planted well before the ground freezes.
  • Mulch the planting area to avoid heaving from winter thawing and freezing.
Get a few or a lot of the following fall planting bulbs.
Alliums – These flowering onions are the attractive sisters of the culinary onion, garlic and leek. Tightly packed umbels with scores of flowers resemble colorful balls suspended in air. They make good additions to herb gardens, and the larger alliums combine well with hostas, geraniums, and other low perennials. Alliums are one of the best landscape values available. They bloom for weeks and thereafter that the decorative seed heads remain attractive into the summer months. Wildlife resistant.
Crocus – One of the earliest of spring bulbs, crocuses literally begin the gardening season. They sparkle like little jewels. The flowers open fully on sunny days and release a sweet fragrance that attracts the first pollinators (usually bumblebees) to visit. Crocuses naturalize and multiply quickly.
Hyacinth – This extremely fragrant flower was a favorite of the Romans. The scented, tubular, starry flowers form on a thick spike, making them a valued and long-lived cut flower. They come in a rainbow of colors and are excellent for vibrant bedding displays as well as formal plantings. Wildlife resistant.
Fritillaria – Fritillarias are dramatic plants with leafy stems topped with colorful hanging bells. The stately crown imperial (F. imperialis) is the empress of the spring garden with 3-4' stems and large, pendant, lily-like flowers. Wildlife resistant.
Narcissus – This genus includes daffodils, jonquils, and paperwhites. Narcissus are perhaps the most wildly grown flower in the world. Their buttery yellow (or shimmering white) blossoms signal spring time. Many narcissus have powerful fragrances ranging from sweet to perfumy to clean, adding to their appeal as a cut flower. A hardy naturalizer, narcissus are perfect for hillsides, meadows, woodlands and gardens of all sizes and shapes from coast to coast. For those in southern areas, jonquils withstand heat better than the other divisions. Wildlife resistant.
Tulips – The elegant form and kaleidoscope of colors available in tulips started the greatest horticultural craze in history: Tulipomania. Fortunately, today we don't have to sell our horse drawn carriage or mortgage our cottage to enjoy their beauty. Their bright flowers are available in a vast array of colors, sizes, and bloom times. Species tulips are typically smaller but better naturalizers than the hybrid cultivars. All types are excellent for bedding displays, formal plantings and cut flowers.

Fall and Winter in the Garden