A beginner's guide to fall planting and maintenance
Spring and summer are perhaps the busiest times of year for gardeners. However, fall also is a prime time to tend to gardens.
Soil temperatures in many regions of the country may still be warm enough to encourage root growth well into the start of winter. Furthermore, fall is often the ideal time to plant, fertilize and keep a garden going or to get a head start on next year's bounty.
Here are some tips to make the most of the fall gardening season.
Think about fall annuals and bulb planting
Near the end of September, start planting cool-weather-loving pansies and violas for pops of color as summer flowers fade. Also, it's a good idea to stock up on bulbs that will bloom in the coming months before they sell out in stores. Wait until the temperatures cool down before planting them in desired spots for spring sprouts.
Sow salad seeds
Lettuce, spinach, radishes, and arugula tolerate cooler temperatures. Try new and interesting lettuce varieties and enjoy salads well into the fall season.
Take inventory of the sun
Positioning a garden carefully means maximizing hours of sunlight, which begin to dwindle in the fall. Experts say gardens grow best in sunny locations that receive six hours of direct sunlight daily. This is where container gardens can be helpful, as they allow gardeners to move plants into spots that will get ample sunlight.
Fill in landscaping gaps
Some fall plants can add color around the landscape and brighten up homes for added curb appeal. In addition to pansies and violas, asters, kale and chrysanthemums are fall blooms. Keep in mind that chrysanthemums can come back year after year. So take them out of those flower pots and get them into the ground. They can also be enjoyed next year, sprouting in early spring and developing leaves and buds through late summer.
Clean up unwanted growth
Fall is an ideal time to cut back on spent vegetable plants and eliminate errant weeds. Rather than bagging leaves, mow them with a grass catcher and add the mix to a vegetable garden as an excellent soil insulator. The nitrogen and carbon will fertilize the soil, enhancing growing possibilities and limiting weed growth.
Propagate plants in the fall
As temperatures gradually begin to cool, start taking cuttings from perennials, gathering seed pods from azaleas and rhododendrons, and dividing hardwood cuttings, says the resource Gardening Know How. Consult with a garden center or horticulturist on the proper ways to propagate stems using rooting hormone and other techniques.
Continue to water plants
Water is essential in the fall and winter as roots can still grow. Gradually reduce watering duration as plants go dormant.
Fall planting and maintenance can extend the gardening season and improve the chances of growing a healthy spring garden.