Fall Planting Guide

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Everything You Need to Know about Fall Planting

As the Wyoming growing season comes to a close, it’s time to think about fall planting!

Compared to spring, planting at this time of year has some distinct benefits:

The cooler air temperature is easier on both plants and gardeners.

The soil is already warm, allowing roots to become well established before ground freezes.

Fall offers more good planting days than spring, when unpredictable weather can make working the soil difficult.

Pests and diseases taper off in the fall.

There’s no need to fertilize. (In fact, fertilizing new plants in the fall promotes new, tender growth that can be nipped by winter weather.)

So let’s get planting…

Spring Bulbs

Because all spring-blooming flower bulbs need a period of cold dormancy, they should be planted in the fall for the best spring display.

If you have deer and critters around your yard, choose plants that are unpalatable to them. These would include daffodils, jonquils, grape hyacinth, allium, and snowdrop.

What, No Tulips?!

Tulips are a special treat for deer. If you love them, but have lots of wildlife nearby, choose “species” tulips. These small tulips hug the ground and offer spectacular springtime color. They thrive in Wyoming’s rocky soil, and they’re much less attractive to deer than their larger hybrid cousins.

Bulb Planting Tips

Here are some more spring bulb planting tips from Better Homes & Gardens:

Not sure how deep to plant your spring bulbs? It’s a very common question for gardeners. Generally, you should dig a hole two to three times deeper than the bulb is tall. (So if you have a 3-inch-tall bulb, dig a hole 6 to 9 inches deep.)

Bulbs need well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. Mix compost into your bulbs’ planting holes to ensure good blooming.

The easiest way to prevent weeds is to spread two to three inches of mulch over the soil. Your bulbs will easily push up through it, but most weed seeds cannot penetrate it.

Give your bulbs a good drink after you plant them. This will encourage them to send out roots and become established more quickly. It will also eliminate air pockets in the soil, which could cause your bulbs to dry out.

Most bulbs look best when planted in big, irregular groupings instead of straight rows. So try tossing them onto the ground and plant them where they fall. It’s fine if some bulbs end up being a little closer to each other than the recommended spacing. It adds to the natural look.

Planting Pansies

Fall is the best time to plant pansies because the still-warm soil temperatures give their roots time to establish. And by planting in fall, you’ll get two seasons of blooms, as they’ll often return in the spring.

Be careful that you don’t plant pansies too early, as they can’t take the heat. But you do want to plant them early enough to get a root system established before winter.

Also, be sure to remove spent flowers, so the plant doesn’t use its energy to set seeds, and keep the soil moist. Once the soil freezes, mulch the plants to protect them from the harshest weather.

Pansies are surprisingly cold hardy, though–which makes them great for our climate. They’ll survive a frost, bouncing back from even single-digit temperatures. Even if the blooms wither from the cold, the plants will often stay alive to bloom again. So they’re an ideal flowering plant for fall and early-winter color.

Trees and Shrubs

Even with the harsh Wyoming winters, fall is a good season for planting trees and shrubs. The plants are literally going to bed in their new homes, and limited stress is placed on them this time of year. The key is to ensure they receive enough moisture.

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The University of Wyoming Extension Service offers the following tips:

Trees should always be planted so the base of the plant is at or slightly above soil level. (Do not plant too deeply.)

Keep newly planted trees or shrubs well watered until the ground freezes, so they get a good start before going into full dormancy over the winter. A gentle trickle or sprinkle over several hours is best for settling the soil around the root ball without compacting it. Trees will survive Wyoming winters much better if their root systems are kept moist during the cold months.

A couple inches of mulch around the base of the tree will conserve water, reduce competition from weeds and grass, reduce soil compaction, and provide insulation from the cold.

Almost all deciduous trees and shrubs can be safely planted in autumn through early winter. (Evergreens should be planted earlier in the season.)  Remember to protect them from undesirable wildlife species. Come next spring, they’ll awaken to their new environment!


Better Homes & Gardens

Univ. of Wyoming Extension

Today’s Homeowner

Farmers’ Almanac

Iowa State Univ. Extension

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