Fall Gardening: The Dos and Don’ts
Yes indeed, the joy of gardening continues far beyond the bounds of Labor Day. While the time for planting vegetables and other harvestables has mostly passed, other plants can still thrive in the cooler months. We talked to the experts at Bachman’s, one of Minnesota’s most trusted garden centers, for their tips and tricks for spicing up your life with beautiful foliage this autumn season and into next year.
Do: Plant perennials, shrubs, trees, and colorful annuals
“You can still plant perennials, I think that’s the question everybody has,” says Lesli Rauch, Bachman’s’ vice president of visual merchandising. Echinacea and Rudbeckia are some fall perennials they recommend, but there are many options that will do well and overwinter, provided they are given the proper care, of course. Heather Johnson, Bachman’s’ company horticulturalist, recommends Celosia, ornamental kale, and colorful mums for your fall annuals to add some quick color to your porch or yard. We definitely saw lots of ornamental kale gracing the stage in Bachman’s’ many lovely fall container arrangements. Grasses, evergreens, and even fruit trees like cherry and apple can also be planted during this time of year with great success.
Don’t: Stop watering too early
“Watering is the key. That is the key to the success of planting in the fall and having it survive over the winter,” says Rauch. “Even though the tops may die back, the root system will continue to grow until it freezes,” Rauch says this means continuing your watering regimen up until the end of November and into December, much later than most people realize. Adding some mulch is never a bad idea either, and can help protect the root system from harsh winters.
Do: Mow your leaves in with your grass!
If having a pristine, leaf-free lawn isn’t a priority for you, leaving leaf debris on the ground and mowing it in with your grass can be a very beneficial choice to give you a leg up next season. “You can use that as mulch or compost on top of your soil, that makes really good insulation – and it’s free,” Johnson explains. It’s also good for carbon recycling – decomposers will break down the leaves, releasing carbon into the soil and providing nutrients for your plants or grass. Less yard “waste” ending up in the landfill, and healthier grass and plants, it’s a win-win.
Don’t: Leave dead or diseased plants laying around
“Diseases can overwinter,” says Johnson, “It is important to make sure you’re not composting that material and just throwing it away instead.” If you want to spruce up the inside of your home with an “outside-in” look, you can re-purpose some dead or pruned leaves and other plant parts to use as décor. She also mentions that brush piles and standing wood piles can be havens for a lot of pests, so try not to have too many of those around, especially too close to plants.
Do: Spice up your porch or balcony with containers!
When thinking about what to plant in those cute autumn baskets you just bought, Bachman’s suggests the tried and true “thrill, fill and spill” method. This philosophy basically says this: pick something tall and eye-catching for the center (think dried fall grasses or Celosia), something bushier to fill in the gaps (perhaps that ornamental kale mentioned earlier), and something that will cascade over the side of the container for the “spill,” (creeping jenny and petunias are some good options). To keep container gardening simple, “try to keep the maintenance and watering level of all the plants similar,” suggests Johnson. It is important to do your research and think ahead so that you aren’t having to care for different parts of the container in wildly varying ways and to ensure that whatever location the container is in is going to provide adequate sunlight for all.
Don’t: Forget to help out your pollinators
“Pollinators are essentially what keep a lot of our flora alive,” Johnson reminds us. They not only help our beautiful landscapes thrive, but keep our food systems going too (every fruit starts with a flower!). To help your birds, butterflies, bees and, yes, wasps, do their jobs, we can do things like continue to provide flowering plants for them throughout the fall, and minimize the use of harsh chemicals. Johnson also recommends setting aside a portion of your lawn grass that you don’t use as frequently to turn into a pollinator area. “One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that if you were to let your lawn grasses grow, they would flower,” she says. Letting even a little bit of that grass grow tall is a great way to keep pollinators happy.
If you are still finding yourself stumped on how to plant or care for your fall garden, wondering about planting dates or even have lawn care questions, never fear, Bachman’s has a plethora of resources on their website and YouTube channel just for you. Johnson highly recommends checking out the University of Minnesota’s website for more in-depth research as well if you have some nitty-gritty questions that remain unanswered.
Oh, and don’t forget to come and check out Bachman’s’ fall “ideas house” at the Minneapolis location on Lyndale Ave, open through October 2nd, to get some autumn décor inspiration. A percentage of all ticket sales will go to Second Harvest Heartland.