Fall Planting

goldenrod small when to plant small lance walheim planting small
What to Plant When to Plant How to Plant

The beautiful, cooler weather of fall beckons us outdoors, and can make it a great time for planting. Whether you’re adding some bee-attractant plants to your landscape or garden, or starting a pollinator patch from seed, Lance Walheim offers some tips for fall planting.

What to Plant

Lance Walheim, Bayer Advanced
Lance Walheim, Bayer Advanced
lawn and garden expert, says
good timing and soil
preparation are key when
planting wildflower seed in
the fall.
When looking for bee-attractant plants, it’s important to select plants with flower colors that bees like (such as yellow, blue or purple). Lance also advises “planting for a long-season of color” by selecting plants that bloom across different seasons for year-round bee forage. For example, to extend the season for bees into the fall, Lance notes that in California, some fall-blooming plants include: Salvias, Pentstemons, Alyssum (an annual), Coneflowers, Gloriosa Daisy, Asters, and if they are planted late, even sunflowers.

He also says that choosing plants native to the region where you live is a great way to go. The Pollinator Partnership has a Bee Smart mobile app that helps gardeners select the best native plants in their area to attract bees.

Many trees, including crabapples and redbuds, are also good options for planting in the fall, as trees often bloom early in the spring, offering foraging opportunities earlier in the season for bees. Planting trees and shrubs that attract bees provides food sources for years into the future.

Pollinator-attractant plants that can be grown in most areas of the United States include: Aster, Pentstemon, Bluebeard (Caryopteris), Catmints, Coneflower, Gaillardia, Lamb’s Ear, Lavender, Oregano, Redbud (tree), Rosemary, Rudbeckia, Salvias, Sunflower, Thyme, Tickseed (Coreopsis) and Yarrow.

Lance Walheim, Roses for Dummies, Gardening for Dummies
Lance is well-known for some of his gardening books, including Roses for Dummies, so we asked him if roses attracted bees. “It really varies variety by variety,” he says. “A lot of the big hybrid tea roses, which have really tight blooms and upwards of 100 petals, don’t really open up to give easy access to the bees. But others, that have fewer petals and do open up, are attractive to bees. I know that my Iceberg® rose, which is a white rose, is frequently visited by bees. Color and fragrance also probably play a role in which roses bees find attractive.”
Lance says herbs also are a good bee-attractant choice for planting, including lavender, rosemary, and thyme. In addition, dill and fennel “have the big flower clusters that the bees love.” While summer gardens have plants such as cucumbers and squash that need pollinators, fall gardens tend to contain leafy vegetables that can become bitter if you allow them to bloom. However, Lance encourages gardeners to keep bees in mind: “As an alternative if you didn’t get all of your lettuce or broccoli picked, go ahead and leave it there, and if it blooms, it will attract the bees.”

Did you know that many wildflower seed mixes include both annuals and perennials and a mix of flowers that will bloom at different times of the year? Many are also specifically formulated for attracting pollinators.

When to Plant

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“The key thing in more northern climates is don’t plant too early. You don’t want the seeds to germinate before you have a snowfall or really cold weather, or they could be be killed,” Lance explains.
Proper timing is important when planting wildflower seeds in the fall. “The usual recommendation in cold winter climates is that you wait until after the first hard frost to sow the seeds,” Lance says. “The key thing in more northern climates is don’t plant too early. You don’t want the seeds to germinate before you have a snowfall or really cold weather, or they could be be killed,” Lance explains.

In warmer climates, such as parts of California, the Southeast, lower Southern Plains, and some of the mid-Atlantic states, where hard freezes and snow are less common, the timing isn’t quite as critical. “In more southern climates, the seeds will probably germinate in the fall, and then some of them might start blooming quite a bit earlier in late winter to early spring.“

The beauty of having the seeds in the ground in the fall is that they will germinate as soon as the spring weather gets to the right point. “Even in colder climates you’re going to get an earlier germination and an earlier bloom, “ Lance says. “Wildflowers will usually bloom earlier than if you planted them in the spring, because they are out there at the exact right time.” That means earlier food for hungry bees!!

podcast Podcast: Time to Plant Wildflowers in Your Garden
N.C. State University Extension Master Gardener Lise Jenkins and the Bayer Bee Care Center's Becky Langer talk about establishing a successful wildflower bed.

How to Plant

Good soil preparation is an important part of fall wildflower seed planting. “People tend to just scatter the seed, but the more preparation you can do, the better,” Lance says.

The first step is to get rid of the weeds that are there. They can be hoed, tilled or sprayed with a properly labeled herbicide, but turning the soil to kill weeds will also help establishment of the wildflowers. Lance will sometime water the planting area and pre-germinate weed seeds, then take measures to get rid of the weed seedlings before sowing wildflowers. Wildflower seed can then be spread over the area much like grass seed, lightly raked in, or covered with a thin layer of mulch. “You’re going to get a much better germination and a much better patch of flowers if you do a little prep as opposed to just throwing the seeds out there,” Lance says. He also advises reading seed packets or consulting the wildflower seed company for good information on pre-planting preparation.

Lance adds that if your area has a dry spell, especially in early spring once the seeds have germinated, occasional watering will help get them through.

lance walheim planting Lance Walheim lives in central California, and his area is under a severe drought with some watering restrictions. So when planting wildflower seeds, he has decided a pot is the better way to go for water conservation. “I actually was thinking about planting some of the seeds in a half-barrel. Even if we don’t get rain this winter, I’ll be able to keep them moist with water I’ve saved elsewhere. I will probably plant them around October (in a southern climate), and then I would expect to see some bloom probably around January or February, and some in later summer.”

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