Rejoice for Autumn is upon us and therefore planting for Spring can occur! Cooler temperatures and soaking autumn rains will help your plants establish stronger root systems before their winter slumber. Do not delay get out there and plant today!
“The more we accomplish in fall, the less hectic things will be in the garden next spring,” say Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen, in their book Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn. “It’s prime time for setting out new plants, moving those that are out of place, and planting bulbs to brighten our gardens next year. It’s also a super opportunity for stocking up on new plants at clearance sales, dividing overgrown clumps, taking cuttings, and sowing seeds.” So you heard them! Hop to it and get planting!
If you’ve had little success with Autumn planting in the past, you may be choosing the wrong plants or you’re not getting them in the ground soon enough before the first frosts. Here are some foolproof plants to put in your garden, plus tips on when and how to plant them for the best results.
What to plant:
Autumn into early winter is the peak time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, and crocuses. It’s important to put them in the ground now because they need a long winter of beauty sleep to get ready for their spring coming-out party. Starting in late summer, you’ll find a wide array of spring-blooming bulbs in garden catalogues and local garden centres. But don’t limit yourself to the most common varieties. Expand your garden-bulb repertoire by trying something more adventurous.
When to plant:
Wait to plant bulbs until nighttime temperatures drop to around 10 degrees or below for about two weeks to give the soil a chance to cool down so your bulbs don’t emerge too early. To give bulbs enough time to root and get established, try to plant them at least six weeks before a hard, ground-freezing frost can be expected in your area (typically in October/November). If you still haven’t put your bulbs in the ground by early winter, go ahead and plant them as soon as there is a thaw or break in the weather. Leaving bulbs out of the ground too long will cause them to wither and dry out. Another option is to plant your bulbs in pots and allow them to overwinter in a holding bed or a sheltered outdoor spot, covered with several inches of mulch.
When purchasing bulbs, buy several varieties with a range of flowering periods so you can enjoy blooms from early to late spring. Bury your bulbs with the pointed end up to a depth of about three times their diameter (for most tulip and daffodil bulbs, that’s about 6 to 8 inches). For the greatest impact, plant them in clusters of five or more, rather than sticking a single bulb in the ground. To camouflage the bulb foliage when it begins to die back in the spring, intermingle your bulbs with perennials that have similar foliage, such as daylilies and hostas.
What to plant:
By the time autumn arrives, our heat-weary, sun-parched gardens need an infusion of colour. Cool-season flowering annuals put on their best show in the autumn and will often remain vibrant through November or longer. They don’t mind frosty evenings and many will even tolerate temperatures down to the mid-20s. Violas and their pansy cousins are among the hardiest and most colourful of the cool-season annuals. Other showy annuals that can take the cold include sweet alyssum, snapdragon, osteospermum, dianthus, lobelia, and cornflower.
Flowering annuals aren’t your only options for adding flair to the autumn garden. Alongside your pansies, plant some ornamental kale and cabbage, which have centres that turn lovely pastel shades of white, pink, and purple when the temperatures drop. Or try Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’, an edible green often used as an ornamental foliage plant because of its multicoloured stalks and attractive veined leaves.
When to plant:
If you’re buying bedding plants from a local nursery, you can generally put them out in the garden as soon as they become available, but they will do best if you wait until daytime temperatures remain below 25 degrees (not a problem as soon as September hits!). Some cool-season annuals, particularly pansies, are easy to grow from seed if they are sown in the garden in late summer.
Keep your autumn annuals blooming longer by removing spent flowers. Where winters are mild, autumn pansies will often survive and rebloom in spring if protected by a layer of mulch. Mums may also come back to life the following spring if you plant them directly in the ground and cover them with a layer of mulch.