By Connie Kotke, Master Gardener
Fall is a great time for planting! As long as you water consistently until the ground freezes–and continue to water again in early spring–your new trees, shrubs and perennials will take hold nicely. Planting in the fall avoids risks of mid-summer drought and heat stress that can decimate young or transplanted foliage. You can also find some great bargains at your local garden centers. Check out these tips for successful fall planting.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor next spring by enhancing your landscapes and garden beds this fall. The key to success is consistently watering these plants until the ground freezes in mid- to late November.
Step 1: Walk through your yard with a critical eye. Take notes and photos of areas that would benefit from moving things around or adding some fresh new plant material. Are there holes to be filled? Are there weeks when nothing is blooming? Are there overgrown or declining shrubs and plants that should be replaced?
Step 2: Fall is a great time to dig and divide most perennials. And it’s the only time to divide peonies and other spring bloomers. Make a list of plants that are too large for their current space. Decide where to place them based on light, water and soil requirements. Remember, some perennials will take several years to return to full bloom and size after you transplant or split them.
Step 3: Aim for early fall to plant new Zone 4 perennials, shrubs and trees (it’s best to avoid pushing to Zone 5 in fall). This allows plenty of time for roots to become established before winter, and they’ll be ready to grow early next spring. How about some instant gratification with new fall color from sugar maples, ginkgoes, burning bushes or other fall-blooming plants? Adding a thick layer (at least 4 inches) of mulch under new trees and shrubs will hold moisture and reduce winter injury.
Step 4: Consider planting some spring-blooming bulbs–any time until the ground is frozen. Pair the bulbs with perennials that will fill in the space by late spring or early summer. That way, your bulbs can die back without becoming an eyesore in the garden.
Step 5: If you have a vegetable garden, fall is the time to harvest and then direct seed a fall cover crop like ryegrass, rye, rapeseed, oats winter wheat or winter rye. Cover crops improve soil fertility and reduce erosion from winds and rain.
Finally, visit your local nursery or garden center for great deals on trees, shrubs and perennials for fall planting. Enjoy!
For more information, check out these University of Minnesota resources:
Upper Midwest home garden care calendar | UMN Extension