Fall Planting Guide
A lot of people are quick to assume that fall is when the gardening season starts to wind down, but that couldn’t be further from the truth—fall planting is where it’s at. I always look forward to fall gardening, because really, there’s a lot to love about it, and your options are far from limited. There are so many underappreciated late-season bloomers that are just as impressive as our summer annuals, plus loads of tasty cold-hardy vegetables that can’t quite hack the heat of our Edmonton summers. You can also get into prepping your spring garden by planting bulbs that will remain dormant over winter, springing up from the soil as soon as the snow begins to melt.
Fall is also an ideal time to start planting landscaping plants, like trees and shrubs, because the mild soil temperature won’t end up shocking the roots and stressing out the plants. So, if you’re looking to do a full yard overhaul, or if you just want to enjoy a few pops of colour before winter takes over, fall is the perfect time to get the ball rolling. Plus, you gotta admit, it’s way easier spending hours out in the garden when the scorching summer sun isn’t beating down on you! Don’t pack away your trowel just yet—gardening season ain’t over by a long shot.
Fall Garden Planting Guide: Trees and Shrubs
While spring is also a viable time to plant some trees and shrubs, sometimes that summer heat sneaks up on them pretty quickly and they aren’t quite sturdy enough to tough it out. Have you ever stood in line for Splash Mountain at Disneyworld for an hour during the summer? Well, times that by 8 hours and you’ll get an idea of how our landscaping plants feel during the peak summer heat. However, if they’ve had a chance to develop good roots, then they’ll be able to soak up way more moisture from the soil and won’t end up wilting (or in my case, fainting in front of Goofy and dropping my $14 snow cone). That’s why autumn planting is awesome—your young trees and shrubs, provided they are hardy to zone 3A in Edmonton, are more likely to make it through the winter; especially if you wrap them up in protective cloth for some extra insulation.
Deciduous trees and shrubs do best when planted in their dormant phase, which is kind of like their plant hibernation phase during the cool seasons. In a way, they’re more zenned-out and chill during this phase, so they’ll be unfazed by the transition of being transplanted. Evergreens also prefer to be planted during cooler months—either fall or early spring—so they don’t get heat shock.
When planting your trees and shrubs, take a look at the root ball and try to dig a hole that’s twice as deep, and twice as wide. Gently place the plant in the hole, keeping it upright, and gently add the soil back in, lightly packing it down (but not too hard, since you want the roots to be able to spread without getting compacted). Water generously each day for the next two weeks to help jumpstart root growth, and consider adding a layer of mulch across the soil surface. Be careful not to pile the mulch up around the base of the plant—this could encourage mould growth, which won’t bode well for your new plants.
Fall Planting Guide: Vegetables
Some of our favourite veggies are much more suited to the fall growing season, as opposed to summertime, for a few reasons. Either the hot temperatures tend to scorch them, or they may bolt, which is when they flower instead of producing edible parts. Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce greens, radishes, and most other cruciferous vegetables love fall just as much as we do (just don’t add any pumpkin spice flavouring to their water—that’s taking it too far). In Edmonton, you’ve got a few options for how you can pull off fall vegetable planting, since our winters are a bit too intense for our plants to grow actively.
You can buy starter plants and get them in the soil in September, and they should be able to mature in time to produce some harvestable food. It’s a good idea to plant them in containers, just in case we get a dump of snow a little ahead of schedule. That way, you can bring them inside to stay warm. Using protective coverings at night will also help prevent frost damage later in the season. Starting seeds in the fall might not leave enough time for your plants to mature before winter, but some vegetables—like radishes—only need about 1-2 months to reach full maturity.
Pre-seeding in the fall for a spring harvest is also an option, and the cold overwintering period can actually help them taste better! Salad greens like spinach and arugula, radishes, and garlic are our favourite options for fall pre-seeding. Plant them once it’s already pretty frosty outside, sometime around late October or early November, so they won’t run the risk of germinating too early. Add a layer of mulch across the soil to help protect and insulate them over the winter, and once the snow melts, your vegetable garden will suddenly be booming.
Fall Flower Planting Guide: Spring Bulbs
After an ice-cold Alberta winter, there are few things more uplifting than the first sight of greenery poking up from the soil. Plus, not having to worry about digging through the garden and waiting around for the soil to warm up will leave you with more time for spring cleaning and other prep-work for the warm months ahead. Mixing some fertilizer into your soil in the fall and planting some bulbs will give them a full winter to soak up nutrients, so they’ll burst onto the scene in the spring with a bright splash of colour.
Crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops, tulips, squills, and irises are all flowering plants that can be planted in fall. Pick out a spot in the garden that gets lots of direct sunlight, and bury the hardier bulb plants about 2-3 inches deep. More delicate bulbs like daffodils should be buried a bit deeper, about 6 inches. Make sure you place them with their pointy sides facing up! Water them well after planting, and apply a layer of mulch for winter insulation. Keep an eye out for hungry squirrels, though. They’re looking for food to feast on through the winter, and in the eyes of squirrels, flowering bulbs are the perfect winter comfort food. I’m more of a mac n’ cheese guy myself, but I get where they’re coming from.
There’s no shortage of plants that can handle being added into the landscape in fall—in fact, many of them prefer it! Plus, getting your spring gardening out of the way by overwintering bulbs and seeds gives you one less thing to worry about in the new year. Get started on planting for fall and visit us at our garden centre in Sherwood Park—we’ll hook you up with all the best bulbs, starter plants, seeds, trees, and shrubs for cool weather gardening.