Autumn Tips

Fall Planting

FallPlanting_NLWe generally think of spring- a time of new growth and life- as the time to plant everything including trees & shrubs.  However, cooler temperatures make fall an excellent time to plant.  The soil is warmer than in the spring, and many of us actually have more time to devote to planting trees and shrubs in the fall, when we aren’t so preoccupied with our annuals and vegetables.  Fall is a great time to plant, because it gives your new plants time to settle in and gives them a jump start over anything planted next spring.

Trees & Shrubs

  • Plant while the soil is still warm (Soil temp. 6″ deep should be above 55 degrees Farenheit) to encourage strong root growth and development. Typically, our soil maintains warm temperatures into mid-October, even after the air is much colder.
  • Container-grown trees, (such as all trees available at Fort Collins Nursery), transplant much better than bare-root or recently dug balled-and-burlapped stock.
  • Keep newly planted trees & shrubs well watered (but not over watered) until they drop their leaves, and then water them deeply once a month throughout the winter.
  • Young thin-barked trees should be wrapped in late October/early November with a breathable wrap to prevent frost cracks, animal damage, and sunscald. Wrap the trunks with wither paper tree wrap or rigid plastic that allows for air movement. Remove the wrap no later than early/mid March. Trees that have developed the coarse craggy bark typically associated with mature trees do not need to be wrapped in the winter.
  • Mulch trees with 3-4” wood chips to prevent early soil freezing.


Every Autumn, our garden shop is taken over with a diverse selection of bulbs for spring color!  Tulips, daffodils, iris, narcissus, allium, crocus and more are available in a rainbow of colors.  These bulbs can be planted up until the soil freezes, but shop early for the best selection!   It is best to plant bulbs early in the fall so that the bulb root has time to get established, prior to the ground freezing. Bulbs prefer sandy or clay loam soil.  In general, bulbs should be planted at a depth of three to four times the diameter of the bulb.  If planting in a sandy soil, plant two inches deeper.  Small crocus bulbs should be planted more shallowly; large allium or daffodil bulbs will be planted more deeply.   Information courtesy of CSU.   We also offer amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs that can be forced to bloom in the winter months.  Call or stop by for availability, and chat with one of our knowledgeable staff for how-to tips.   We also have all great selection of bulb accessories: gravel, vases, bulb planter tools, books and bulb fertilizers.

Mum’s the word

Looking for some late-summer, early autumn perennial bloomers? Add a colorful chrysanthemum to your flower bed or fall container garden! Fort Collins Nursery offers hundreds of these prolific, hardy and beautifully bushy perennials.

Mums come in a wide variety of colors, from yellow, pink, magenta, red, lavender, and more. Blooms on mums typically last for weeks providing a late-summer boost when other flowers have given out. And did you know that mums’ flowers are edible?

Fort Collins Nursery also offers a great selection of colorful asters, also a hardy late-summer and autumn bloomer. Small, abundant, star-shaped flowers tower on 2-3 foot plants, providing a nice backdrop in perennial beds.

Both mums and asters appreciate full sun, and a good dose of compost when planted. They also prefer to be watered at their base. Watering from above, onto the leaves, can encourage powdery mildew.

Plant garlic this fall

Nothing smells as inviting as fresh garlic sautéing in a pan. These tasty bulbs can be added to nearly any style of cuisine, or even roasted and eaten by themselves.

Fall is the time to plant garlic for next year’s harvest! This over-wintering bulb needs at least four to six weeks to establish itself. Plant garlic cloves about 12 inches apart in loose, amended soil with plenty of organic matter. Garlic will do best if planted when soil temperatures are 40°F, but before the ground freezes.

Each garlic clove will produce a bulb in the summer. After the leaves have turned brown, garlic is ready to be harvested. Harvest is easiest with a digging fork to loosen the soil without disturbing or damaging bulbs. Drying garlic, or curing, can help your harvest last for up to a year. The biggest and healthiest cloves can be replanted again in the fall.

Keep soil moist but not too wet, which will rot garlic bulbs. Make sure to keep the beds free of weeds, which competes too much with the bulbs.

Fort Collins Nursery has garlic varieties arriving in September, but they don’t last long! Stop in and get planting!

Winterize your lawn, trees & shrubs

Lawns will especially benefit from fall fertilization with a healthier root system, which will mean a dense, green lawn in the spring. In Northern Colorado, lawns can be fertilized right up to Thanksgiving (late November). We recommend either Jirdon Winterizer Fertilizer (conventional) or AlphaLawn Turf Winterizer (organic).

Trees and shrubs
do best with a complete fertilizer. such as Jirdon Tree & Shrub Fertilizer, after leaves have fallen.

Autumn is also a good time to add chelated iron fertilizers for iron deficiencies, which is indicated by yellow-colored leaves throughout the growing season.

When in doubt, ask one of our knowledgeable staff to help you choose the fertilizers that are right for your landscape.

Adjust watering schedule for autumn, winter

Winter WateringEven though winter is here and plants are dormant they still need winter watering in our high desert climate.

We recommend thoroughly watering trees, shrubs, lawns and perennial beds at least once a month. Remember to water when temperatures are above 40 degrees, and with enough time for the water to fully soak into the soil.

Added water, along with a thick bed of mulch, will help protect plants throughout the harsh winter months.

Newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials are the most at risk. Try to water these 2-3 times a month. Fall-laid sod will also need extra moisture.

Finally, make sure that you disconnect and drain your hose after watering to avoid freezing pipes and to prolong the life of your garden hose. Please contact us with any questions. 

Autumn clean-up

This is the time of year to clean up the garden in anticipation of winter and a carefree spring.

Fallen harvests attract unwanted pests. Raccoons, mice, insects and fungus take advantage of your plants for food and habitat. Clearing out vegetable gardens to reduce chances of attracting pests.

If you want to encourage wildlife, leave seed pods, berries and rose hips on plants. A water source is also appreciated. Also leave ornamental grasses untrimmed until the spring.

If plants have any diseases present, throw them in the trash. Many foliage-based diseases can survive the winter in compost bins. Toss out any weeds, such as dock, vine weed and dandelions. These stubborn weeds spread seed or remain dormant, only to resurface in the spring.

Save fallen leaves to use as mulch or to add to the compost pile. Add the last few rounds of grass clippings to the pile, they’ll help add nitrogen.

To prepare your plants for winter, reduce irrigation, but don’t cut it out entirely. Colorado winters can be dry, so give plants 1-2 soakings per month until spring.

Use tree wrap to prevent sunscald on thin-barked trees after late October. Remove wrap in early spring, when budding occurs.

Winterize with rose collars

Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, and other grafted roses need more winter protection than other varieties. Prune back long canes in November to protect them from snow damage, or wait until mid-April and leave the rose hips for winter interest. Remove debris from the base of the roses, and use a rose collar to hold soil, compost, straw or bark over the rose crown. We carry rose collars, which can be reused year after year. In the spring, the collars can also be used to protect starter tomatoes.

Plant bulbs in autumn for spring color

Every Autumn, our garden shop is taken over with a diverse selection of bulbs for Spring color! Tulips, daffodils, iris, crocus and more are available in a rainbow of colors. These bulbs can be planted up until the soil freezes, but shop early for the best selection!

We also offer amaryllis and paper white bulbs that can be forced to bloom in the Winter months. Call or stop by for availability, and chat with one of our knowledgeable staff for how-to tips.

Renew garden soil before winter sets in

After a long and productive growing season, most garden soils can benefit from amendments before the ground freezes.
Renew organic matter in the vegetable garden and now empty flowerbeds while also clearing the yard of debris. Run a lawn mower over fallen leaves, collect, and spread in beds. Dig and mix leaves into soil to a depth of 6 inches.
Also, add broken-down compost from the bottom of your compost pile, or add bagged compost. Dehydrated cow or sheep manure makes an excellent amendment. All this effort in the autumn and early winter means only having to turn soil and plant in Spring!

What to plant in the fall?

Perennials such as mums, asters, hibiscus and ornamental grasses are showing fabulous fall color, shape and texture.

Trees and shrubs do very well getting established when planted in Fall.

Start planning spaces now for early-blooming spring bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and tulips, which will arrive at the nursery in September.