Fall gardening: What to plant before winter hits

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — The days are getting shorter. The air is getting crisper. The leaves are beginning to fall. It's officially autumn, and that means it's time to hang up your gardening gloves and leave your yard to prepare for a long winter's nap.


While many people think of fall as the end of the gardening season, experts say this overlooked time of year is a actually prime for getting your garden ready for the seasons (and years) ahead.

“Fall is a great time for planting,” said Jerry Goodspeed, Utah State University Extension horticulturist. "Trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs all enjoy being planted this time of year. And, in my humble opinion, fall is the best time for planting. It's even better than the spring or summer.”

What to plant in the fall:
  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Perennials
  • Bulbs

Goodspeed says there are several advantages that autumn has over other seasons. For one, even though the temperatures are beginning to drop, the soil stays warm long after the air gets cooler.

"If you plant your plants at least six weeks before the first freeze is likely to occur, you'll give (plants) a chance to conserve their foliage and flower development in favor of root growth," writes Carrie Lamont for davesgarden.com. "If the roots are there, the plant will be there." In Utah, Goodspeed says, the ground itself may not freeze until December or even into early January some years.

Goodspeed says that having the dead leaves that autumn brings on is actually a plus for trees when it comes to root development. Essentially, it's less work for the tree when it doesn't have to supply nutrients to encourage leaf and stem growth, giving the roots more energy to grow and develop themselves.

Another bonus to planting in the fall is that nurseries often have sales when the warm weather comes to an end. "They also know that plants survive the winter better in the ground than in a pot in the middle of a lonesome nursery," Goodspeed said.

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Lindsay Maxfield


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