Despite what you may think, fall planting is actually advised for some types of plants. In Salt Lake City and other parts of northern Utah, there’s still time to plant trees and shrubs before the first freeze. Autumn is also the proper time to plant bulbs, in preparation for a bright and colorful spring. Here are a few tips for fall planting along the Wasatch Front.
Why Plant in the Fall?
When planting most anything, but especially trees and shrubs, the goal is to get it established as quickly as possible. Even though the crisp weather has set in, the soil stays warm long after the air has cooled. After the above-ground portions of the plant have gone dormant, the root system continues to grow in the safety of the warm soil. With little or no pressure to grow leaves or stems, root systems get all the attention, growing until the time the ground freezes in December or even January. Autumn is also the right time for planting spring flowering bulbs, after the soil has cooled down.
Best Practices for Fall Tree and Shrub Planting
For trees and shrubs, plant the root ball a little higher in the fall than you would at other times during the year. Some experts suggest leaving a tiny bit of the root ball above the soil surface. Dig the hole only slightly larger than the root ball itself, and fill in with a 70/30 mixture of native soil and mulch. Spread a thick (2” – 4”) layer of mulch over the top, beyond the reach of the roots, to keep the plant most effectively insulated. Be careful to pull the mulch away from tree trunks, as it can cause the bark to rot and encourage insect damage. Wrap young tree trunks with reflective material now, as the sun’s reflection off snow and clouds can cause sun scalding even when it’s cold.
Plant Bulbs Now for a Colorful Spring
Bulbs are many gardeners’ favorite, based on their ease of planting and beautiful results. In addition, bulbs will bloom year after year if you take some basic care when planting. Dig a trench or individual holes, depending on whether you prefer a more formal, straight line planting or a clustered, naturalistic growth pattern. Mix a significant amount of mulch and bone meal into the soil before planting. When purchasing bulbs, select large, healthy specimens that are free from blemishes and resemble an onion in look and feel. Avoid soft, shriveled, spongy, or very hard bulbs. Spacing depends on variety of bulb, but generally 4” to 6” apart works well. Water thoroughly after you finish planting then not again until mid-spring. Bulbs will rot if they get or stay too wet.
Fall is also the time to prune some trees species, to remove dead annuals and other spent plant material, and to mix compost and other fertilizers into dormant garden beds. Millcreek Gardens in Salt Lake City is the perfect place for bulbs, trees, shrubs, fertilizer and, best of all, great advice. Their experienced gardening professionals will gladly answer all your questions about fall planting in Utah.