Many new gardeners may wonder how their neighbors seem to start the warm months with a healthy garden full of blooming buds — and although it might seem like they simply have a green thumb, it’s actually a simple matter of planning your spring and summer plants during the fall months.
“The fall flowering bulbs are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the autumn season. After autumn, I always look forward to seeing vibrant blooms in my garden,” explains Lisa Daniels, co-owner of Own the Winter. “But you must first prepare the soil, which should be loose and well drained.”
According to Daniels, in order to ensure your winter bulbs have the best shot, you should also make sure to identify the planting depth to ensure that they begin to grow at the appropriate time; you may check the label to see how deep they should be planted. Then, plant them in clusters for extra visual appeal, and remember to designate the area where you’ll be planting them so you don’t dig them up unintentionally.
Interested in finding out exactly which bulbs and seeds you should plant in the fall in order to guarantee a gorgeous spring? Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best flower and plant bulbs that’ll withstand the winter in the ground and give their finest performance come warmer temperatures.
Dwarf Fruit Trees ($3.50; homedepot.ca)
For an easy way to have fresh fruit trees in the spring, consider planting dwarf fruit trees in the fall. “Dwarf fruit trees do not require a lot of maintenance and can be grown in containers, making them perfect to use as an indoor tree and then plant outside come springtime,” explains Stephen Webb, owner of Garden’s Whisper.
Marigolds, French or African ($2.99; homedepot.ca)
“Marigolds are good seeds and bulbs to plant in the fall if you want a protective barrier for your garden,” adds Webb. “Planting marigold seeds or bulbs will help prevent pesky insects from ruining your crops come spring.” Marigolds primarily work as good seeds and bulbs for keeping away harmful nematodes that often attack new plants during the spring months.
Cabbage, January King or Golden Acre ($3.49; homedepot.ca)
According to Webb, cabbage is a good crop for planting in the fall if you want a healthy vegetable crop come spring. “These cabbage seeds or bulbs can be planted in the fall before the first frost hits your area and left outside for several days until they are acclimated to the temperature change,” he explains. “Then, store them in a cool place where they will stay dormant until it is time to plant them out again in spring.”
Butterfly Weed Seeds ($2.99; homedepot.ca)
Planting butterfly weed seeds in the fall is beneficial because this flower typically blooms around April or May, and who doesn’t love butterflies? “Planting these small seeds now will grow in the fall and start blooming when normally expected in early spring,” Webb explains. “After they become established, they are drought-tolerant, so there is no need to water frequently once they grow outside of their containers.”
Forget-Me-Nots ($1.89; homedepot.ca)
Forget-me-nots are beautiful flowers that can be planted in the fall to give your garden a touch of color come springtime. “These flowers are easy to grow and require very little maintenance. If you have problems with slugs or snails, forget-me-nots will keep them away because they taste terrible!” Webb says.
Tulips ($12.98; homedepot.ca)
Planting tulips is another way to get ahead for the spring. Whether you plant the bigger bulbs now or go with some perennial tulip varieties, this flower will bring color to your outdoor spaces come April or May. “Check local garden centers for perennials, as these are generally smaller plants, so they are easier to transport for indoor storage if needed,” Webb suggests.
Fall-Blooming Crocus ($12.98; homedepot.ca)
“Crocuses are a sure sign that winter is over and spring is on its way,” explains Webb. “Planting a mixture of these small colorful bulbs will help ensure you have flowers blooming come April or May, giving your garden a bright pop of color.” Depending on where you live, these are well planted in an outdoor garden bed now and then stored inside to be grown outdoors again come spring.
Hyacinths ($9.98; homedepot.ca)
“Although not as easy as crocus, hyacinths are another bulb that will bring color to your outdoor spaces come springtime,” says Webb. “Planting them in the fall is beneficial because there’s no need to store them, and they’ll produce flowers sooner than if planted in the spring.” Webb suggests finding a container or bed that’s comfortably large enough for these bulbs; hyacinths can be tricky to transport for indoor storage before planting out again outside come spring.
Root Vegetables ($2.49; homedepot.ca)
“The quick answer is that most root vegetables are a good choice for this,” offers Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love. “Because they’re buried deep enough to survive all but the most brutal frost, they can survive winter.”
Kale ($3.49; homedepot.ca)
According to Yamaguchi, hearty plants like kale are great too, as they can survive winter without issue. “You’re basically looking for leafy greens like collard greens, kale or spinach to be your fixture for fall planting.”
Garlic ($6.49; amazon.ca)
“We plant hundreds of bulbs of garlic each fall because it grows without weeding, watering or fertilizing,” explains Lauren Dibble, founder of Hillsborough Homesteading. “And once you’ve had fresh garlic you really can’t go back to store-bought.” According to Dibble, garlic is even great for apartment or urban gardeners because it can be grown in pots or containers or raised beds.
Turf Grass ($49.99; amazon.ca)
Fall is the best season if you plan on establishing new turf grass, either by laying new sod or seeding. Seeding is the cheaper and easier option, but sod can give faster results, explains Gena Lorainne, gardening expert at Fantastic Services. If you simply want to repair a patchy or sparse lawn, expose the soil by raking the spots. Afterward, sprinkle grass seeds wherever you want them to grow, then cover them with a light layer of straw or compost. Make sure to water your new grass regularly before the freezing temperatures take over.
Trees and Shrubs ($34.98; homedepot.ca)
“The best time to plant trees and/or shrubs is at the end of summer, where the weather is cooler but the soil is still warm enough for root development,” explains Lorainne. “Before planting, I highly recommend checking with your utility companies in order to locate any underground lines.” Just like turf grass, you need to keep your newly planted trees or shrubs well watered until the ground freeze so they get a good head start before the cold weather hits.
Spring Bulbs ($19.98; homedepot.ca)
Spring-blooming bulbs need a cold-weather period so they can bloom, hence the reason why they need to be planted in fall, even though you won’t be able to enjoy them until the following spring. “There are many bulb options, so you are able to choose heights, colors and bloom time that work best for you and your garden,” says Lorainne.
Perennials ($29.98; homedepot.ca)
Autumn is one of the best seasons to plant perennial plants. It’s also a good time for replanting and dividing existing perennials (for example, astilbe and hostas) in your garden. “Make sure you keep your newly planted perennials well watered until the ground freezes, which will encourage them to grow new and strong roots before they go dormant for the winter,” says Lorainne. “It’s very important to keep them protected from frost heaving with shredded leaves or a blanket, layered around 3 inches (8 centimeters) thick around them.”
Pansies and Violas ($2.49; homedepot.ca)
“As with the previously mentioned plants, I recommend planting pansies and violas in fall, when the soil is still warm, so the plant roots can start developing, which will help them survive the winter,” says Lorainne. “Also, by planting them in fall, you will get two seasons of enjoyment because they often start blooming again when the spring’s warm weather arrives.”
If your ground freezes in the winter, Lorraine suggests more cold-resistant varieties, such as “Cool Wave,” for example. To protect these plants from the cold, add a thick layer of mulch once the soil freezes.
Golden Daffodils (12.98; homedepot.ca)
“If you’re looking to get ahead for next spring you can’t go too far wrong with planting some golden daffodils,” says Ray Brosnan, founder and gardening expert at Brosnan Property Solutions. “There’s no better way to usher in spring than with a pop of golden yellow buds emerging from the depths of winter!” According to Brosnan, daffodils are incredibly hardy and very low-maintenance — you just need to ensure the soil stays moist and is quite well drained.
Snowdrops ($6.25; amazon.ca)
“Snowdrops are another great option, as they begin to break through the frozen ground in late winter and begin to bloom in quite cold temperatures; they’ll even emerge if there’s ice or snow present,” explains Brosnan. “Drop these in around 3 inches deep in a tight-knit group. One singular bulb won’t make a huge impact, but if you plant them in a group you’ll wind up with a stunning, pale blanket unveiling itself in the spring. Plant in well-drained, moist soil in full to partial shade for best results.”