Fall has always been my favorite season. It’s a magical time outdoors, especially in the garden. The air is crisp and the leaves create a beautiful color palette. Fall gardening is a great way to soak in the beauty of the season. It’s important to slow down and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor, but fall is also the time to put a bit of work in to prepare your garden for the colder months ahead.
Whether you use the season to grow something new, recover from summertime gardening, or prepare for the winter and spring, we’ve got you. In this post, we’ll explore some tips and tricks to make the most of your fall gardening.
Table of contents
- Tips for Fall Gardening
- Plan to add some fall color to your yard
- Enjoy fall fruits and vegetables
- Protect plants from frost
- Enjoy reduced pest pressure
- Enjoy a reduction in diseases
- Set your garden up for springtime success
- Plant something new
- Host a fall harvest dinner
Tips for Fall Gardening
Fall gardening can be a rewarding experience, provided you know how to make the most of it.
Caring for your plants through this season of changes has its challenges, but it also has a whole lot of benefits. Here’s the basics of what we’ll cover today.
First, embrace change in this season with beautiful colors! But remember, you need to prepare for cooling temperatures that may damage plants. Next, if you can use this time to put some work into preparing your garden for winter dormancy, it’ll be well on its way to springing back to life when the weather warms. And don’t forget to celebrate the season with a fall harvest dinner!
If this gets you excited for fall gardening, read on for our favorite tips and tricks of the season!
Plan to add some fall color to your yard
Without plants that are either blooming or bursting with fall colors, fall can get a bit gloomy. But don’t worry, it’s super easy to bring loads of color into your fall garden!
Fall blooming annuals
Plant fall blooming annuals in your hanging planters and flower beds to bring color into every corner of your yard. Mums are the crowd favorite for fall- but did you know that although they are typically grown as annuals in fall planters, they can be perennials planted right alongside your other landscaping plants!
Sunflowers, calendula, and african daisies are some more types of annual flowers that just look like they belong in fall. They come in so many beautiful fall shades of yellow, orange, and rust.
However, don’t give up on clinging to that last bit of summer color! Some other annual fall blooms include petunias, phlox, sweet alyssum, and verbena. These all make great additions to planters and flower beds and can add a splash of pink, purple, and white to your garden before everything loses its color for the winter.
And let’s not get my favorite fall bloomer for edible landscaping– the saffron crocus! These cute little purple flowers are such a welcome site in mid to late fall. And of course it’s also fun to harvest your own saffron! Check out my guide on how to grow saffron for more.
Fall blooming perennials
Dahlias are a great option if you’re up for a bit of a challenge. They make beautiful cut flowers, but do need some extra attention and support as they can topple over. Depending on your climate, these might be treated as annuals, though they can most often be left to overwinter in the ground. We planted some cheap dahlia tubers from Home Depot a few years ago and just decided to leave them be. They’ve reappeared every year since, and make beautiful fall bouquets as you can see!
Panicle hydrangeas are a great blooming perennial for cold climates according to Proven Winners. They also do a good job of taking up space if you’re in need of some larger landscaping plants to make an impact.
Plants with gorgeous fall foliage
There are two plants that immediately come to mind for me here- Japanese maples and gingko trees. Japanese maples come in a wide variety of colors, so take your pick of any of the prettiest fall colors- here are some ideas. Gingko trees turn a sunny yellow all at once, and it’s got to be the prettiest yellow I’ve ever seen. The color on these trees in fall is so saturated you really have to see it in person to appreciate it.
But, we’re not all looking to plant new trees, are we? That’s a bit of a hassle, and our garden beds and planters need attention, too! For beautiful fall foliage, consider ornamental kale, cabbage, and mustards. These add depth and contrast with dark purples, deep greens, and even pops of white.
Huechera can add a beautiful dark red and thrives in shaded sections of your garden (it’s included in our list of flowers for shade but its leaves are also beautiful). Cannas and caladiums add a beautiful striped feature for some added texture in your garden beds and feature beautiful shades of bright green, pink, and even red. Talk about fall color!
Enjoy fall fruits and vegetables
Having vegetables and fruits to garden in fall often requires a bit of planning earlier in the year. If you want to harvest fall pumpkins for Halloween, for example, you’ll need to think ahead.
Fall harvested vegetables to start early
Some of the vegetables and fruits you’ll need to start earlier in the year include pumpkins and squash, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. We have a whole list of fall harvested vegetables for you to check out and get more inspiration. Plant these right alongside your tomatoes and other summer plants to enjoy a fall harvest.
Cold hardy vegetables to plant through fall
There are many vegetables with a shorter growth period that you can start in fall even after cleaning up the remnants of summer flowers and tomatoes. Personally, I love planting some quick growing greens right after cleaning up different sections of the garden. Here are some of my favorite fall-planted greens and veggies to grow.
Turnips and radishes: These are great because (as long as you choose smaller varieties) they can be interplanted between other vegetables to make the most of your gardening space. No matter how small your space, you can add a few of these in. That means you can get started a bit early on these without tearing out any other plants!
Arugula: is my favorite leafy green to grow in fall. Start harvesting baby arugula as soon as the leaves are 3 or 4 inches long. As long as you only cut the outside leaves, you can continue to harvest throughout the season.
Bok Choy: it doesn’t take long at all for bok choy to reach a good size for harvest as baby size bok choy. Add it to stir fry recipes or ramen for a break from your go-to fall roasted dinner recipes.
Kale: You may need to start seeds a bit earlier to enjoy kale come fall, but it’s so worth it. I love The “black magic” variety for its incredible sweetness. And guess what? It only gets sweeter with frost, so no worries about that upcoming cold front!
These aren’t the only fall vegetables you can grow! Check out the rest of our list over here.
Protect plants from frost
Frost can be a real challenge in fall gardening, but with a little preparation, you can protect your plants and enjoy a longer growing season.
Mulch acts as an insulator, keeping the soil warm and protecting the roots of your plants. Although, you may remember in our fall garden cleanup post we mention that it can be beneficial to hold off on mulching trees until after the first frost. This will allow that first round of icy water to penetrate the top layer of soil and kill off pests and diseases that may be hiding out.
Water your plants
Moist soil retains heat better than dry soil, so make sure to water your plants before a frost is expected. Here’s a guide with more details on the right timing to water before a frost.
Cover your plants:
If you want to continue growing your favorite garden plants past your first frost date, you’ll need to use some sort of cover. Use blankets, burlap, or frost cloth to cover your plants during the night when frost is most likely to occur. Have a raised bed? I have a super easy way to build row covers to make this process super convenient.
Enjoy reduced pest pressure
One of the joys of fall gardening is the reduced pest pressure, allowing your plants to flourish without the constant battle against insects and diseases. Some plants that are highly susceptible to pest damage, like many brassicas, have a much easier time in fall. As your summer plants die off, be sure to remove the dead material, spray pests with a gentle pest control solution, and manually remove pests when necessary. This is the time of year when small measures can have a big impact, because those pests won’t be bouncing right back as they tend to do in summer!
Enjoy a reduction in diseases
Just like pests, most garden diseases thrive in warmer weather and begin to subside come fall. So, just like pests, make a bit of effort to remove diseased plants and spray where necessary. New diseases are much less likely to start up in the fall, but they might spread from other plants if already established. So, once again, a bit of effort here goes a long way.
Set your garden up for springtime success
Even if you’re not set on staying in full gardener mode, it’s a great time to take a step back and prepare for next year’s growing season.
Add organic material like compost or yard waste to your garden beds in fall. This is a great time to add materials that take some time to break down in the soil because it’ll have all fall and winter to do so. Allowing your garden to rest is key to healthy soil.
Plant cover crops
Instead of amending your soil with compost, you can also throw some cover crop seeds in the ground and let the plants do the rest! Cover crops add nutrients back into the soil to replace what was needed to grow your fruits, vegetables, and flowers the season before. They also protect your garden soil from the elements through the winter. Want to learn to use cover crops in your own home garden? Check out our post on the subject here.
It’s not the most fun way to spend a Saturday in the fall, but it can be very satisfying to get the garden all cleaned up. And hey, you do get to spend the day outdoors which I think is always a win. Cleaning up the garden is key to avoid different problems in the following spring. Take care of removing diseased plants, dead plant material, and getting your garden supplies all organized. For a full list of tasks, check out our fall garden cleanup checklist.
Plant something new
Fall is the ideal time to plant a variety of new landscaping plants in your garden. Whether it’s spring bulbs or a beautiful new tree, use this season to get something new growing!
Fall planted bulbs
You have to be okay with a bit of planning and delayed gratification to grow a beautiful spring bulb garden, but man is it worth it. For a list of our favorite fall planted bulbs, click here. Spoiler alert, my favorite is this gorgeous tulip variety. If you need help with how to plant them, just check out our guide on how to plant spring bulbs in the fall!
Oh, and don’t forget about vegetables, too! Get your onion and garlic in the ground in fall to use them in your kitchen come summertime.
Plant landscaping trees in fall
Fall is an ideal time to plant trees. The exact timing will vary depending on your climate, but generally just aim for the time with the most mild weather. You want to avoid heat waves that might stress out the new sapling. Cool weather helps to encourage root growth so that after winter passes, your new tree will be able to spring to life and focus growth above ground. Check out more details on the correct timing to plant trees in this helpful article I found.
Host a fall harvest dinner
This one’s not just for the fruit and vegetable gardeners! After spending time nurturing your garden, fall is the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Organize a fall harvest dinner and serve dishes made from your (and your friends’) homegrown produce. Imagine the joy of sharing a meal made with fresh butternut squash, kale, and other vegetables from your garden.
Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden, hosting a fall harvest dinner is still a great way to celebrate nature and get friends together in this beautiful season. And since you don’t have your own produce to use, it can be a great excuse to spend a morning at a local farmer’s market before enjoying your dinner with friends. Two fun fall activities from one idea!
Happy fall gardening!
Fall gardening is a delightful experience, offering its own unique charms compared to the summer garden. From the vibrant, ever-changing colors, to the satisfaction of closing out the gardening season outdoors, fall gardening is really something special. In my own garden, I’ve found so much satisfaction in being able to harvest the last bit of produce from the vegetable garden right before winter arrives. And you know I love having fresh bouquets from the garden right up until frost steals the flowers away. So, embrace the cool breeze and make the most of this wonderful season in your garden. Happy fall gardening!