Gardening can be just much an art as a science. But even the most inexperienced gardeners can set themselves up for success by following a little professional advice. Professor Steve Dubik, of the Landscape Technology program at Montgomery College, shares his top 14 tips for fall planting season. Take his word for it, a little planning and prepping this fall will liven up any garden next spring season.
- Warm soil temperatures
- Cool air temperatures
- Predictable precipitation
- Less weed competition
- Fewer insect pests
Plant, Harvest, Fertilize, Seed:
- Plant hardy mums, asters, and pansies for fall color.
- Fall planting provides plants with a major head start. When trees, shrubs, and perennials are fall-planted, the roots continue growing even though the tops don’t.
- Consider getting a soil test done.
- Plant garlic now in your vegetable garden for a summer harvest next year.
- Plant spring blooming bulbs in mid-October through November. Many spring flowering bulbs–daffodils, crocus, alliums, hyacinth, and snowdrops–are deer resistant; deer do eat tulips. If needed, cover with wire mesh material to deter chipmunks and squirrels.
- Fertilize your bluegrass and fescue turf in the fall. When fertilizing your established lawn, select organic or slow release fertilizer that has little or no phosphorous.
- Seed or re-seed your lawn. Mid-October is the “official” recommended cutoff date for seeding a tall fescue.
Plant groundcovers where your turfgrass has repeatedly failed. For shady areas, consider using native groundcovers like Pennsylvania wood sedge or blue wood sedge.
- Harvest your culinary herbs like rosemary, basil, and tarragon.
- Remove and dispose of diseased and rotted fruits from your garden. This will help reduce the amount of diseased inoculum and number of insect pests that overwinter (survive) and attack your garden next year.
- Autumn is the time to clean up beds. But remember, not everything benefits from a super tidy garden. Remember to leave the seed heads and fruit clusters on shrubs and perennials like coneflowers and viburnums for song birds.
- Wait to cut back your perennial grasses until the spring. In addition to looking attractive through the winter, the dead tops help protect the plant’s dormant growing points from winter injury.
- Plant a fall cover crop in the vegetable garden, such as radish, peas, winter wheat, or winter rye. Cover crops improve a soil’s physical structure and fertility. As cover crops grow, they become reservoirs for important plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as micronutrients. Cover crops also help prevent soil erosion, reduce weed problems, and provide a habitat for wildlife.
- As trees begin to drop their leaves, use them to mulch your trees, shrubs, and beds. Shred them with your mulching mower and leave them in place as long as they don’t completely cover your grass.
Doing some of these maintenance chores now will help provide a more beautiful and bountiful garden next season.
The Landscape Technology program at Montgomery College prepares students for a career in landscaping, landscape contracting, or landscape design, and provides a comprehensive mix of academic and practical training in the field of ornamental horticulture.