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5 Tips for Gardening in the Fall

5 Tips for Gardening in the Fall

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

If you are one of the many new people who have taken up gardening in the past few years, you might be wondering what you’ll need to do to keep your plants happy and healthy when cooler weather rolls around this fall. There are lots of resources about fall gardening tasks available, but we’ve pulled together these five helpful tips you may not have considered.

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Fall is prime time for planting many types of perennials and shrubs including Legend Of The Fall® Fothergilla which comes into its prime when the mercury dips. Image courtesy of Proven Winners ColorChoice.

1. Fall Is an Excellent Time for Planting

If you found yourself filling your cart at your local garden center this spring but haven’t been back since, it’s time to make a return visit. That’s because fall is one of the very best times to plant spring blooming bulbs as well as most perennials, shrubs and trees.

The science behind the "Fall Is for Planting" idea is that a plant's roots grow most vigorously when the air temperature is relatively cooler than the soil temperature. Warm soil in fall keeps root development going while a plant's top growth slows. The roots continue to expand until the soil temperature falls below about 50°F. Many kinds of spring and summer flowering perennials also tend to produce more flowers the next season when planted the fall prior.

Just make sure that whatever you plant this fall stays moist right up until the ground freezes. This may mean keeping out the hose or watering can a little longer than usual to make sure you are able to water anything you’ve planted this season.

Learn more benefits of fall planting, plus which plants are not suitable for fall planting here.

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The Twist ‘n Plant® gardening auger makes quick work of fall planting.

2. Garden Smarter, Not Harder

You could use a shovel to plant in the fall, but handling the cold, wet soil isn’t so fun when it is freezing outside. Instead, make quick work of planting fall bulbs, perennials and shrubs by using a Twist ‘n Plant® gardening auger. This tool comes in several different sizes so you can match the right one to the job. Use the narrower auger for drilling single, deep holes for tulips and daffodils or the jumbo landscape auger for drilling wider holes for 1-gallon potted plants. This durable steel auger does all the work for you, and you’ll have everything planted in no time.

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In the fall, it’s time to empty out your self-watering AquaPots or refill them with cool season plants according to your climate.

3. Maintain Your Self-Watering Pots

If you live where freezing temperatures are the norm in winter, you’ll want to empty the water out your self-watering containers such as AquaPots® by mid-fall. If water is left in the bottom and it goes through a freeze/thaw cycle, the pressure can crack the pot. Once your fall flowers are spent, empty out the container, dump out any leftover water, clean it out with a hose, and store it upside down or on its side for the winter.

If you live in a mild climate where the water in your self-watering pots won’t freeze, you can safely continue to use them all winter long. In such a case, fall is a great time to refresh your plantings. Annuals and foliage plants that enjoy relatively cool weather will be plentiful this time of year at your local garden center. Pay them a visit to find some new, seasonally appropriate plants that will last from now until spring. 

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It’s time to bring houseplants back indoors when nighttime temperatures start to fall into the 50s.

4. Bring in and Add New Houseplants

It’s time to start watching your nighttime low temperatures if you plan to bring a few plants indoors to enjoy as houseplants. Most won’t be happy if the mercury dips below 55˚F. Some, like caladiums and basil, are even more cold sensitive and should be brought indoors if temperatures fall below 60˚F. This article goes over all the details from deciding which plants can be brought indoors to how to make the transition successfully.

Fall is a great time to purchase new houseplants for two reasons. First, garden centers are starting to receive fresh shipments of leafjoy™ plants from their suppliers. Snap up your favorites now while the selection is plentiful. Second, the weather is still conducive to bringing plants home. Houseplants despise cold air and drafts, and they won’t go into shock or experience any damage when you transport them home on a sunny 60˚F fall day. The same assurances can’t be made on a 30˚F day in December.

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Some special considerations should be made when overwintering perennials like Primo® ‘Mahogany Monster’ coral bells in containers.

5. Overwintering Potted Perennials and Shrubs

If you have been growing perennials or shrubs in containers all summer long and would prefer to keep them potted instead of transplanting them into your garden, there are some key factors to assess first.

The most critical factor to overwintering success is a plant’s cold hardiness. The rule of thumb for a plant to be winter hardy in a pot is that it should be two zones hardier than the climate zone you live in. For example, if you live in zone 6, the plant should be hardy at least to zone 4 to increase your chances of overwintering success. If the plant in your container is the same hardiness zone as your climate or even less hardy, it will not likely survive the winter in a pot.

There are several more tips you’ll need to overwinter perennials and shrubs successfully in containers. Find them all in this comprehensive article.

Want to learn more?

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Patent Information: Legend Of The Fall® Fothergilla x intermedia USPP32049 CanPBRAF; Primo® 'Mahogany Monster' Heuchera USPP31395 CanPBRAF

Susan Martin is an avid zone 6 gardener, garden writer and speaker who enjoys spreading her passion for plants to her fellow gardeners across North America.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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