Skip to main content
Over the Garden Fence

Fall is for More than Tree Planting

Fall is for more than planting trees (although it is true that fall is a great time for that – see more below). Fall also is the time to do so many activities in the home landscape. These are not just weekend activities, but things that can be done in small bites, even on weekday evenings. Before you know it, that daunting work is finished! 

For the home lawn:

  • New seeding with good soil preparation
  • New sodding with good soil preparation
  • Core aeration alone
  • Core aeration with topdressing
  • Core aeration with topdressing and over seeding
  • Provide a fall fertilization
  • Have a soil test done to get a benchmark
  • Mow until cold weather as needed
  • Sharpen the mower blades for next spring

For the perennial beds:

  • Fall weed management
  • Cut back and clean up appropriate perennials
  • Apply compost to the beds
  • Have a soil test done as a benchmark
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs

New bed preparation for 2020 growing season:

  • Have a soil test done for the first time
  • Clear the area of turf and weeds
  • Work the soil as deep as possible
  • Apply compost to the new bed
  • Work the compost into the soil profile

Build your first compost pile or fill a compost Bin:

  • Add those greens (including lawn clippings) and browns (including fallen leaves) as you clean up annual and perennial beds
  • As it is built, mix well
  • Add some soil as a starter or activator during the build and whenever you add to the pile or bin
  • Add water and keep it moist for good decomposition

Finally, fall really is a great time for planting trees, shrubs and evergreens.

        Before you buy and plant:

  • Consider location, soil type, and plant hardiness and choose plants that fit all three categories
  • Have utilities and cable located before the first shovelful
  • Remember, the planting hole should be wider at the top than at the bottom and of ample size
  • Give attention to any circling roots if it is container-grown

        When you plant:

  • Plant trees with the flair roots at the soil line or slightly above the soil line
  • Water well when planted and continue to water well into the late fall, as needed
  • Optionally, mulch with several inches of straw mulch to slow the cold and allow root growth well into the late fall and early winter

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.