Fall is a great time of the year for adding trees and shrubs to the landscape. The warm soil and cool air is good for root development. In some cases, plants that are planted in the fall tend to establish themselves better than ones planted in the spring. This is because they have all of the fall and all of the following spring to get established before the most stressful time of the year which is summer.

Fall is the time to buy and plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils. They are available in garden centers throughout the fall. Keep in mind that some bulbs are only available in limited quantities, so it is best to shop early, especially for the new and unusual varieties. The best time to plant your bulbs is in October, when the weather is cool and stays cool.

When planting your bulbs, plant them in clusters. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches in diameter and put 5 to 7 bulbs in each hole. Planting them like this will create a “bouquet” look. You can even plant the bulbs at different levels in the same hole to extend the time that they bloom. If you dig a hole 8″ deep you can place 3 or 4 bulbs at 8″ deep and then cover them with soil and then plant 3 or 4 more at 6″ deep. When you do this, the bulbs planted at 8″ deep will start flowering when the ones at 6″ are almost finished.

Fall is the best time of the year to renovate your lawn and plant grass seed. The warm soil and cool air are ideal for establishing new grass. If you are going to renovate your lawn, you need to first eliminate the weeds. You need at least two weeks to make sure that you have most of the weeds eliminated in your yard, before you start to plant your seed. The best time to plant your new seed to have it established this fall, is the middle to end of September.

Contact your county extension office for a step by step guide sheet on how to renovate your lawn. Fall is the best time of the year to fertilize your existing lawn, especially fescue lawns. You can fertilize in September and again in November. Fertilizer applied in November should be a winterizer. After the summer, many shade trees and shrubs may be suffering from the stress of the drought. We have not had a good soaking rain for some time now, so you may have to water trees and shrubs that are showing signs of drought stress. As your summer flowers fade away, there are lots of plants that you can plant for fall color.

You can plant hardy chrysanthemums, asters, ornamental cabbage and kale, and pansies. Most people think of planting pansies in the spring. You can get two seasons from pansies if you plant them in the fall. They love the cool weather and will be very colorful through the fall. They will lie dormant through most of the winter, but will spring up on warm days. I would recommend covering them with straw to give them extra protection through the winter months. If we have a long, cold winter, there is a chance they will not survive. Next spring, if they made it through the winter, they will be even bigger and more beautiful.

A question often asked this time of the year is, what can be done before a frost to prolong a vegetable garden? There are several things that can be done.

If you have tomatoes left on the vine and don’t want to see them go to waste, pick all of the green mature fruit before the killing frost. Wrap the tomatoes in a brown paper bag and store between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The tomatoes will continue to ripen slowly over the next several weeks. Whole plants can be uprooted and hung in sheltered locations, where the fruit will continue to ripen.

Another common question this time of year is how to prolong the harvest period of root crops like carrots and turnips without digging and storing them. “Summer-planted carrots and fall turnips may be left in the ground until a killing frost. Some gardeners place straw mulch over the row so these crops can be harvested until the ground freezes solid.

For more information on fall gardening tips, contact your county extension center.

By: Jennifer Schutter, Northeast Region Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

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