Autumn Tips

Protect from frost, cold

Frost blankets can protect large areas from frost, but can also collect snow and crush breakable stems

Even the hardiest of vegetables and flowers need protection from frost and freezing temperatures. In Northern Colorado, the average last frost occurs in mid-May, and in Southern Wyoming it can be as late as the first or second week of June. In Autumn, the first average frost usually occurs within the first week of October in Fort Collins, and Southern Wyoming can freeze as early as the last week of September. When is comes to protecting tender plants, don’t let those 70 degree days fool you!

What will survive a frost?

Most early spring bulbs resist the unpredictable weather, but the actual blooms are more likely to be damaged. The same goes for vegetables; early season crops may thrive in cooler conditions, but may be devastated by a hard cold snap (typically 28 degrees Fahrenheit and warmer is safe for most frost-hardy crops, but any colder and they risk damage).

What won’t survive a frost?

Warm season annuals and vegetable including petunias, zinnias, tomatoes, peppers, and beans do not like cold temperatures. Make sure they are well-protected in the event of even a light frost. The blossoms of many fruit trees are also at risk from frost and freeze. While the health of the tree should not be compromised, a late frost or freeze may damage the blossom or any newly developed fruit. 

How to protect plants from frost damage

  • There are many ways to prevent cold damage to your plants. Frost cloth, whether laid directly over plants or attached to a structure, can provide a few degrees of protections in a light freeze. There are a variety of options for frost cloth including bags to wrap individual shrubs or larger pieces of frost cloth sold by the foot. 

    Hot Caps are a heavy-duty waxed paper cap that creates a mini greenhouse for seedlings

  • Hot Caps to cover tender (but hardened off) crops. Even an upside down nursery pot can cover plants overnight. Just remember to remove any covering during the day so sunlight can get in.
  • Season Extenders (often referred to as Wall-O-Waters) create a very warm environment for individual plants, not only protecting plants from frost but also creating extra warmth during the day, warming soil and accelerating growth.
  • Using black plastic to cover soil in vegetable gardens will also warm the soil, prevent moisture loss and keep weeds at bay. You can do the same in landscape beds with a layer of mulch.

There are a variety of options for frost protection

What if there’s snow?

Snow during a frost event can be a blessing and a curse. Snow can actually benefit some plants, especially spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils, as it creates a layer of moisture on the plant that can keep cold air from drying and causing further damage. 

However, snow can also be very heavy! Especially on trees and shrubs, avoid using frost cloth if temperatures may be so low that it won’t be much help (the benefits of frost cloth are questionable for fruit blossoms in anything below about 28 degrees). Frost cloth can collect a lot of snow, weighing the tree down and creating a tremendous risk of broken limbs than can negatively affect the health of the tree for years to come. Don’t risk your tree’s long-term health in an effort to save a few blossoms!


As always, if you have concerns about protecting your plants, stop in or give us a call. We are here for you, no matter the weather!

5 Tips for Peach Success

Nothing defines these hot lazy days of late summer better than a sweet juicy peach. Did you that the only thing better than a Colorado-grown peach bought at a farmer’s market is a peach grown in your own yard? Peaches make excellent landscape trees, are easy to care for, and you get the freshest peaches imaginable! Here are 5 tips to help you successfully grow your own juicy delights.

  1. Fall Planting
    While peach trees can be planted successfully nearly any time of year, the highest success rate is found in fall-planted trees. The soil temperature stays elevated long after our daytime temps have dropped, encouraging root growth. The trees are going dormant, so they don’t need to spend energy supporting fruit and foliage, and can instead divert all their energy to getting a healthy root system established. This allows them to overcome transplant shock while they’re dormant and sets them up to grow like mad the following spring!
  2. Trunk Wrap and Winter Watering
    This advice is true for all trees, and peaches are no exception. Colorado winters are dry (even our snow has a very low moisture content), but the sun can still be intense. Use a trunk wrap to protect the bark from drying and splitting from November to March. Make sure to use products designed for this purpose, as improper wrapping may cause more damage than no wrap at all. Water your peach trees 1-2 times per month throughout the winter to prevent the roots from freeze-drying in the ground. This is especially critical for new trees that have been planted within the last 3 years.
  3. Watch for Pests
    Peaches and other stone fruits are prone to a number of pests in this region. With prompt treatment, none of these pests are particularly problematic, but left unchecked, they can ruin your dreams of homegrown peaches. Some of the most common pests include aphids, cytospora canker, and peach-tree borer. For more information on managing these pests, click here:
  4. Structural Pruning
    Fully ripe peaches are full of juice, and consequently can be quite heavy. Periodic pruning of trees helps ensure a stable structure that won’t break under the load of all its fruit and can prevent a litany of problems that can result from ugly limb breakage. Maintenance pruning can also help more sunlight penetrate the canopy of the tree, which encourages better fruiting. For tips on pruning fruit trees, click here:
  5. Fertilizer
    It takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce a good crop of fruit, so feeding your trees is an important step in guaranteeing an abundant crop. We discourage the use of any fertilizer other than a root stimulator in the first two years after planting (we don’t want to encourage limb growth that the roots are unable to support). The third year a peach tree is in your yard, it’s time to start feeding it. We generally recommend low-nitrogen fertilizers for trees and shrubs, our favorite is Jirdon Tree & Shrub Fertilizer (4-10-10). It is always a good idea to get a soil test done prior to major fertilizer applications in order to pick the best fertilizer for your specific soil environment. Here’s a great article from the CSU Extension on fruit tree fertilizing: If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s best for your peach tree, just call us or stop in, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have!

Adjust watering schedule for autumn, winter

WateringCan_NLEven 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. 

Shrub roses for summer color

Looking for beautiful color all summer long? Try adding a shrub rose for summer color, even in a harsh location. Some of our most popular shrub roses to try include Morden Sunrise, Winnipeg Parks, Hope for Humanity, Sunrise Sunset or a Knockout.

Shrub roses do well in most parts of Colorado and are the hardiest of rose varieties. Choose a full-sun area with well-drained soil. Avoid areas with other shrubs to cut down on root competition.

Make sure to amend the soil when planting, digging a hole about twice the size of the container wide a deep. Click here for our handy planting guide

Shrub roses also benefit from early spring pruning. Remove dead, diseased or winter-damaged canes, and open up areas for air circulation and shape. There is no need to cut back shrub roses to the ground like the hybrid roses. Past-bloom flowers develop into attractive rose hips, which add a dab of winter color and food for birds.

Ask a nursery tree and shrub representative for more tips, fertilizers and maintenance on shrub roses.

Planting Guide for Trees & Shrubs

Fall is an ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. Going into winter, the plants go dormant, allowing them to use all of their resources for root establishment. Once, planted, the success of your new trees and shrubs is, quite literally, in your hands. It sounds like a lot of pressure, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Follow the guidelines in our Planting Guide, and you’ll be on your way to the greenest thumb on the block! 

Click here for the Planting Guide

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 overcome transplant shock without the added demands of producing leaves and flowers, giving them a jump start over anything planted next spring. We have a great new selection of fresh trees and shrubs plus all your fall favorites like mums, asters, garlic and bulbs.

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, (nearly all trees available at Fort Collins Nursery are container-grown), 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 either paper tree wrap or rigid plastic (both in stock now) 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. Avoid piling mulch directly against the trunk.


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, but not too early – wait until daytime temperatures are holding steadily at or below the mid-60s to prevent them from sprouting prematurely in the fall. 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 at a more shallow depth; large allium or daffodil bulbs should be planted at a deeper depth. (Information courtesy of CSU).   We also offer amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs that can be forced to bloom indoors in the winter months.  Call or stop by for availability, or 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.

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.

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 reduces the 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. Leave ornamental grasses untrimmed until the spring as birds will feast on the seeds.

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, bindweed 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.