A number of herbs and vegetables grow well in the cooler temperatures of fall, including parsley, chives, mustard, dill, coriander, snap beans, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, onions, radishes, turnips, beets, rutabaga and others. The right time for planting depends on the plant type, variety and form (seed or transplant). Late summer mulching can extend the growing season a short while.
Plant spring-blooming bulbs in the fall. Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other “fall bulbs” are great choices. For best results, plant them root-end down in a sunny location with good drainage, water them, and then mulch them after the ground freezes. Some tropical plant bulbs (rhizomes, corms and tubers) that grow well in the Midwest’s hot, humid summer cannot survive its cold, harsh winter. Dahlias, caladium, canna, elephant ear, gladiolas and certain types of begonias should be gently dug up and stored in a cool, dry, frost-free place (a bucket or box in your garage that contains some peat moss, for example) until next spring when it’s time for replanting.
When certain types of perennials get too large, they are not as productive. Fall is the perfect time to divide them because temperatures are cooler, and plants have time to create new roots. Dig them up at the drip line, slice down through the center and then quarter the clump. Spread them out when you replant, choosing the healthiest plants first. Keep them well watered but don’t drown them. Perennials that bloom in late summer and fall should be divided in the spring.
Trees and Shrubs
Mid-August through mid-October can be a good time for transplanting certain trees and shrubs. Warm soil temperatures and stable moisture levels promote good root growth before winter. When selecting or moving a tree or shrub, make sure it’s one that can be successfully planted in the fall. Certain conifers do better when planted in late summer or early fall, and there are several hard-to-establish species that you should avoid planting in autumn altogether.
Fall is the best time to add compost to your garden soil. You can also use grass clippings combined with dead leaves. Be sure to mix it into the soil after the first hard frost but before the ground is frozen. If you don’t have your own compost, purchasing peet from your local garden center is a good alternative.
Because the soil is still warm and workable and the weather is pleasant, fall is ideal for any type of garden construction, including edging, raised beds, rock gardens, etc.
Any time you spend weeding in the fall can help reduce the number of bothersome weeds that normally appear in the spring. Completing this task in the fall can allow you to have more time come spring to enjoy your flowers.
The freezing and thawing process associated with season changes can cause problems for plants. Applying a good layer of mulch – such as grass clippings, hay or straw, leaves, pine needles or landscaping mulch after the first hard frost will help keep soil temperatures cold and prevent delicate roots from getting damaged if they become exposed.
Now is the perfect time to aerate your lawn, digging holes 2 to 2.5 inches deep for depth will insure that fertilizer and seed can get a head start. Make sure to watch your spacing too. Holes should be about 3 to 5 inches a part.
During the first part of September, try to put down some fresh seed. Having a thick lawn helps to combat issues with crab grass and clover leaf. Make sure to watch what type of seed your are purchasing. Some prefer thick-leaved grass and others like the thin blade grass. It really comes down to your preference. With cooler fall temperatures and some additional watering, you will be able to see the new grass blades in a matter of a couple of weeks.