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Planting in the Fall

Image of ripe apples on the treeYou have probably heard you can plant fruit trees in spring. Well, that is correct. You surely can. However, that only gives your fruit tree a little time for the roots to get established before the heat impacts their growth. You want to avoid planting them during and right after the summer heat gets cranked up. That said, planting fruit trees in the fall will be the best. Fall planting will give your tree enough time to establish roots and prepare better for spring.

Why fall is better

The fall weather provides a balance of warm and cool temperatures, offering ideal circumstances for your fruit tree to get the roots established before your tree goes dormant for the winter. Having the roots established before the winter will give your new tree a head start when spring arrives.

Where to plant your fruit trees

Fruit trees need full sun to ensure the best quality, quantity, size, and color. Be sure your trees are well-spaced so they are not casting shade on each other. Plus, you want to avoid placing them in the shadows of different trees. You will need good soil drainage where you plan to plant your fruit tree. A simple way to test the drainage of your soil is to dig a hole about 2 feet deep. Then, fill the hole with water. If standing water is still in the hole after waiting 24 hours, you have a drainage problem. Poorly drained soil may result in the death of your tree, or it may be stunted and grow irregularly.

The ideal site will be a downhill slope, allowing drainage and keeping cold air from pooling around your trees. Airflow is essential to a fruit tree because they are so susceptible to freezing. You want to avoid bottomlands or valleys as cold air will settle in these areas, and your fruit tree has a greater chance of freezing. Also, you don’t want to plant too close to structures such as buildings or fences that may obstruct airflow.

When will you harvest fruit?

It usually takes three full growing seasons to produce a good quality crop. The NC State Cooperative Extension recommends removing blooms and small fruits in the first two years. This weeding-out process allows your tree to use all of its energy and nutrients to grow into a more robust plant so that it may support a good future harvest. Also, if you don’t do this and allow your fruit tree to produce early, it may affect your tree’s growth and make it hard to deliver quality and quantity in the future.

Temperature requirements differ from one variety of fruit to the next, so don’t assume you can plant all fruit trees together. For example, peaches are especially susceptible to freezing in the early spring frost as their fruit sets on early. Apples require a period of cold before harvest, but mature fruit may fall victim to an early fall frost. Do your research and check the temperature requirements and timelines for each fruit you choose to grow. Then, plan accordingly.

It sounds more complicated than it is, but if you follow the guidelines, you should have no trouble with fruit production.

Image of Pansies

Planting Fall Flowers

As you prepare your garden for the fall season, consider adding vibrant flowers alongside your fruit trees. Not only do they add a splash of color, but they also attract beneficial pollinators that can help your garden thrive. Here are a few favorites:


Pansies are known for their bright, cheerful colors and ability to withstand cooler temperatures. They are perfect for adding a touch of color to your fall garden and can bloom well into the early winter months. Plant them in well-drained soil and make sure they get plenty of sunlight.


Violas are another excellent choice for fall planting. These hardy flowers can handle light frosts and will continue to bloom in cooler weather. They come in various colors and can be used in garden beds, containers, or ground cover.


Chrysanthemums, commonly known as mums, are the quintessential fall flower. They come in various colors: yellow, orange, red, and purple. Mums thrive in cooler temperatures and can provide a stunning display in your garden. Plant them in a sunny spot with well-drained soil, and water them regularly to keep them looking their best.

Image of Kale leaf

Planting Fall Vegetables

Fall is also an excellent time to plant vegetables that thrive in cooler temperatures. Here are some top choices to consider for your autumn garden:

Collard Greens

Collard greens are a hardy vegetable that can withstand cool temperatures and even light frosts. They are rich in nutrients and can be harvested well into the fall and early winter.


Kale is one of the most cold-hardy vegetables and is perfect for fall planting. It can withstand frost and even improves in flavor after a light frost. Kale has several varieties, bringing unique textures and flavors to your garden. Plant kale in well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight, and it will produce nutritious leaves well into the winter months.

Lettuce, Leaf

Leaf lettuce is an excellent fall crop. It grows best in cooler temperatures and can be harvested as baby greens or allowed to mature for larger leaves. Plant it in well-drained soil and provide regular watering for the best results.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a nutritious leafy green that tolerates cooler temperatures. It grows well in the fall and can be harvested continuously by cutting the outer leaves. With its vibrant stems, Swiss chard adds color to your garden.

By carefully planning your fall garden and following these guidelines, you’ll enjoy a bountiful harvest of fruit, a vibrant display of flowers, and a variety of delicious vegetables. Happy planting!