Fall might seem like the time to rake leaves and pack in your garden for winter, but it's actually the perfect opportunity to get a jumpstart on next year's growing season. Learn what to plant in the fall, including fruits, perennials, trees and more, for a beautiful, bountiful garden next year.
Why Plant in the Fall?
Unlike sweltering summer days that can stress new plants, autumn offers cooler temperatures, fewer pests and plenty of precipitation that encourages new plants to take root before the first frost. Plus, many spring bulbs need the long winter to develop their signature cheerful blooms.
What to Plant in the Fall
While you can plant a wide variety of plants in the fall, certain types are better suited to late-season planting.
Nothing rings in spring quite like the welcome sight of flowers like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. But to make their colorful debut, most flowering bulbs must be planted the fall before. That's because they need a chilling period, usually three to four months, where the cold weather tells the plants to kickstart their growth cycle.
Be sure to plant them according to the depth and spacing indicated on the package. Many bulbs, such as daffodils, make reliable perennials. However, some types, such as tulips, tend to only shine for a single season. As a result, many gardeners prefer to start with a fresh batch each year.
If you've never grown your own garlic, give it a try. This easy, fun-to-grow bulb comes in two types: hardneck, which is better for colder, Northern climates; and softneck, which is better for warmer, Southern climates. Growing hardneck garlic is as simple as planting individual cloves in autumn, then watching their curlicue scapes emerge the following spring. Softneck garlic have softer stems and do not produce scapes. Opt for garlic intended to be used as seed versus grocery-store garlic, which may have been sprayed with a solution to prevent sprouting. Plus, growing seed garlic gives you the chance to try new, more flavorful varieties.
Fruit and berry plants may not be the first things to come to mind when you think of fall planting. However, there are many fruits to plant in fall so you can enjoy an earlier harvest, or in some cases, any harvest next year. You can plant virtually any fruit hardy to your area in autumn. For example, in climates with four seasons, give fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and even grapes a jumpstart by planting pre-frost. Most plants, including blueberries, take two years to produce fruit.
Most perennials don't mind being planted in the fall, so don't be afraid to add new shrubs and flowers to your landscape as temperatures start to dip. Just be sure whatever you select is hardy to your growing zone so that it will come back strong the following spring. Fall is also a great time to divide established perennials, such as hostas or daylilies, and replant or share with friends.
In general, trees flourish when planted in the fall. It's the ideal environment for establishing healthy roots that will carry them through the winter, and it gives them a chance to truly take off the following spring. Plus, you may be able to score an end-of-season deal at the garden center.
What to Consider Before Planting in the Fall
Generally, you can start fall planting roughly six weeks before your average first frost date and continue until the ground freezes. To help perennials, trees and fruits get a strong start, give them as much time as possible to stretch out their roots. After a hard freeze, they'll stop growing until next year.
Bulbs are a bit more forgiving. You can plant them as long as you can work the ground, but you need to give them adequate chilling time. To play it safe, aim to have them planted by the end of October in most climates.
Keep an eye on the weather: If the forecast doesn't call for rain, you'll need to provide supplemental water.
Finally, be sure you're planting varieties hardy to your zone, meaning they'll thrive in the expected temperatures, and not planting tender annuals that only last a single growing season and won't pop up come spring.
Get more fall gardening tips from Burpee's experts.