Autumn Tips

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.

Preparing for the first frost

Frost_NLDon’t get caught off guard by the first frost of fall! Here’s a few quick tips to keep your plants as happy as can be:

  • Cover tender garden plants with a frost cloth or cold frame (more info here).
  • Bring tender houseplants indoors, but don’t forget to treat for pests first (more info here).
  • Harvest tomato plants and hang them up to ripen (more info here).
  • Winterize your lawn, trees, and shrubs with a winterizer fertilizer. Autumn brings moisture, which helps you landscape take advantage of the fertilizer to prepare for next spring. Not sure what to use? We can help! (More info here).

Extend vegetable season

Harvest time will start slowing down, but the taste for fresh vegetables never really wanes. Extend your veggie harvest with cold crops.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi and kale do great with cooler weather conditions. Some will even withstand frost or snow with the right protections such as mulching, row covers or using cold frames.

Cole crops can be transplanted once daytime temperatures are in the 60°-70°F range. Fort Collins Nursery’s greenhouse offers cole crop plant starts in September. Shop early to make sure your plants have a head start!

It is also not too late to sow cool season crop seeds. When choosing a variety, check the “days to maturity” for a shorter (50 day or less) duration. This will ensure proper germination and strong plants facing cool night weather.

Spinach, lettuce, peas, radish and beet seeds can be sown and do best in lower temperatures. These will need protection from frost, such as seed guard and frost cloth (available at Fort Collins Nursery.)

With Colorado’s fickle climate, we could see sun and mild weather well into December, so take advantage of it to extend the growing season.

Don’t let green tomatoes go to waste

GreenTomatoesAs autumn draws in and nights get colder, you may find yourself with loads of green tomatoes left on the vine.

Rather than composting them or letting them go to waste, try this simple trick to ripen them and continue to enjoy homegrown tomatoes just a little longer:

Cut the vines and hang them, intact, in a dark room. Amazingly, most of those tomatoes will actually ripen. The ones that are most likely to ripen well in this environment are those that are a lighter more translucent green color, known as “mature green.”

Fruit that is a darker shade of green may not ripen as well and makes an excellent candidate for fried green tomatoes, green tomato chutney, green tomato pickles, or get creative and invent your own dish!

Have a great  gardening tip you want to share? Comment on this post and tell us, we may highlight your tip on our website, facebook, or in an upcoming newsletter!

Native shrubs for low maintenance

Our Colorado environment is home to some amazing native shrubs. Not only are these shrubs disease resistant and perfect for our native soil, they attract birds, butterflies and provide year-round interest.

Try adding to your landscape a sumac, Apache plume, serviceberry, rabbitbrush, fernbush, mountain mahogany or buffaloberry.

These shrubs have some very unique features, such as the curly, furry fruit of the mountain mahogony, reddish-orange berries of the buffaloberry or the white clusters of flowers of the serviceberry. After proper placement and establishment, these shrubs require little care.

You won’t find these shrubs outside the southwest region. Adding them to your landscape helps keep the area diversified and encourages the local ecosystem. They can be blended seamlessly with non-native plants, depending on the shrubs water and sun needs.

Ask for a tree and shrub representative to help find these native shrubs to match your landscape needs. We also offer many native trees and perennials, come out and see!

Spotting a Fido-friendly lawn

One problem troubling dog owners is urination spots in the lawn. Grass will yellow and die, often ringed by lush, dark green grass.

The dead spots are caused by concentrated salt and ammonia in the urine, which has a similar effect of burning from over-fertilization. The myth that female dogs urine is more damaging is only partly correct, they just eliminate in one area, causing a concentrated spot.

Avoiding these spots can be a time-consuming process. Some dog owners follow dogs with hose, heavily irrigate the spot, train dogs to go in a gravel or out-of-the-way area, or go for walks (and make it a neighbor’s problem!)

Reviving spots can be quickly remedied by reseeding, or just leaving them to fill in on their own. 

Successive sowing in the garden

Successive sowing of seeds in your vegetable garden will ensure a harvest all season long. Plant bush beans, beets, carrots, broccoli, kohlrabi and peas now for a fall crop.

Warm season vegetables, such as beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, okra, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin and squash should start to flower and fruit.

Removing ripe fruit will ensure these plants keep producing through the season.

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!