Here are 3 ways you can cultivate abundance this fall

3 Ways You Can Cultivate Abundance This Fall

In this episode, we’re going to dive into 3 ways you can cultivate abundance this fall. While the vegetable garden is slowing down and the days are getting shorter fall is a great time to take steps to ensure your land will be filled with abundance next spring.

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The rains have finally returned and I couldn’t be happier. By the end of summer, I’m always excited for fall. And it seems like the land is excited for fall too.

People often think of western Washington as a wet, cool area. But our summers are dry and actually fairly warm.

And with climate change, we’re getting more hot days and even less moisture.

By the end of summer, the land looks stressed—just like me it wants the rains to return.

I’ve been noticing seedlings popping up in our native meadows and other areas. With the first storms, these seeds woke up and will get some decent growth in before winter. Especially in their roots underground which will let them take off as soon as the weather warms up come spring.

Soon our miner’s lettuce will start to wake up and grow and new miner's lettuce plants should be popping up too from seeds dropped back in July.

And below the soil surface soil life—fungi, worms, bacteria, and so much more—are all waking up, building soil, and breaking down leaves, branches, wood chips, and other dead organic material.

The land is waking up.

I tend to view fall as a time when the land wakes up and at least here gets one last burst of growth before winter.

Depending on where you live this time of fall growth will be shorter or longer than it is here in western Washington. In colder areas, it may start well before the official first day of fall and be short.

Taking this cue from the land there are steps you can take to cultivate abundance this fall. These steps are to:

  • Plant perennial plants—especially native plants.
  • Prepare new areas for planting.
  • Create space for beneficial critters.

Each fall I try to do all this on my property and this fall is no exception. As I record this episode I’m waiting for 40 native woodland strawberries to arrive in the mail and over the next month, I’ve got 300+ native flowers coming to add to my food forests and vegetable garden.

I love to plant perennials and especially native plants in the fall.

Let’s dive into these 3 steps but before we do I want to take a moment to say thank you to our newest patron Kelli Smith.

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Okay, let’s get started.



Episode Resources:

Further Listening and Reading: Growing with Nature episodes and blog posts with more information about the topics covered in this episode.

Books and Other Resources

Plant List: More information about some of the plants covered in this episode.

Cultivate Abundance this Fall by Planting Perennial Plants

Bareroots and plugs are small!

I love getting bundles of bareroot perennials in the fall and winter. This is a great time to plant these plants. This is a bundle of roughly 50 native plants.

The mornings here have started to have that chill that to me marks the start of fall. And every day more leaves are changing colors and even starting to fall to the ground.

Fall is here and often this is the time when people clean up their growing beds and get ready to hunker down for the winter.

Planting is generally not what people are thinking about at the start of fall.

Take a walk through the garden section of large box stores—if they’re like the ones where I live most of the plants are now gone.

I can also see it in the number of people who visit our website. We always see the numbers drop a bit in the fall and winter and then jump in the spring and summer.

But fall is actually a great time to get out and plant. Especially if you’re planting perennial plants.

I do a large portion of my planting in October and November. If I can all my native plants and non-native perennials are planted during this time.

I just finished ordering bundles of bareroot native plants that I will be planting later in October.

There are a couple of reasons why I plant my perennials and native plants in the fall and why you should too.

Prepare the site but plant quickly

It's hard to see but this hugelkultur bed was planted with a bunch of bareroots native plants. It didn't look like much back then but today this is a large and established hedgerow that provides privacy and habitat for wildlife.

A big reason is that planting these plants in the fall gives them time to get fully established long before they put on their first spring growth.

Above the ground, your new plants will look like their dead—no leaves, and no obvious signs of growth.

But below ground roots will slowly be spreading and interactions with fungi and other beneficial soil life will start.

Transplant shock is lessened this way and your plants will be ready to put on above-ground growth as soon as spring comes.

When you plant perennials in the spring they have to get their roots established at the same time they’re trying to grow.

This means they need more water and will likely suffer more transplant shock.

If possible planting in the fall avoids this shock and reduces how much water your plants will need over the spring and summer.

But you do want to make sure your new perennial plants are dormant. This often means waiting until after the first couple of frosts when the plants have died back or dropped their leaves to plant them.

This leads us to the second reason why I plant perennials in the fall. You can buy them in bundles as bareroot plants.

Bareroots are plants that have been dug up after they go dormant and most of the dirt has been removed from the roots.

These plants are often sold in bundles of 25, 50, or 100 and the cost is only 50 cents to a dollar per plant depending on the plant.

Though this is more common with native plants—though even fruit trees and berries can be purchased as bareroots though often they cost more than the native plants. Bareroot fruit trees tend to be around $10 each depending on how big they are.

Fruit trees often come as bareroots

This is a mix of bareroot and small potted fruit trees and berries. When I can I always order bareroots.

This is how I can plant hundreds of native plants every fall and winter. Each plant costs less than a dollar which makes it relatively affordable to plant them. At least compared to 1-gal shrubs and trees that can cost $20 to $40 each.

And bareroot fruit trees and berries are still cheaper—you can often get 2 or 3 bareroots for the cost of a single large potted plant.

Plus, if you’re not buying them locally shipping bareroots is much cheaper than shipping potted plants. I can easily pick up and move a box of hundreds of bareroot native plants. Good luck doing that with hundreds of 1-gal potted plants.

While bareroot plants are likely to be smaller than potted plants in my view this is actually a good thing. I will never buy a large potted plant—I don’t want a plant with a lot of top growth and relatively few roots.

When you buy bareroot plants the number of above-ground stems might be small—but the number of roots is going to be the same size or even larger than most potted plants.

And those roots won’t have to support all that above-ground growth before the plant is established.

I could keep talking about bareroots but there are other things to discuss. So if you’re going to buy bareroots make sure to check out our blog post all about bareroots and plugs. There is a link to that post in the resources section of the show notes.

The final reason I like to plant native plants and perennials in the fall is it spreads out the work. This lets me focus on my kitchen garden in the spring because my perennials are already planted.

And since fall-planted natives and perennials don’t need as much watering I can focus any watering work on the plants that really need it.

Spring and summer are always busy in the garden so it’s nice to spread out the work by planting perennials in the fall.

Just a quick note about planting perennials in the fall. You do need to get this work done before the ground freezes. I grew up in eastern Washington near the Idaho border and that area has much colder winters than western Washington.

Here in western Washington, I can plant all winter long because the ground never freezes. But in eastern Washington depending on the year the ground was often frozen by the start of November.

So just keep that in mind when planning your fall plantings.

Prepare New Areas for Planting this Fall

Cultivate abundance

Preparing new areas for planting is a great way to cultivate abundance this fall. Here I’m using chickens to clear the grass and then following up with a thick layer of old fall leaves. Later we will plant a hedgerow in this area to provide abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.

Planting perennial plants and native plants is a great way to cultivate abundance this fall. But you can also use this time to prepare new areas for future planting.

When fall comes I often notice plants waking up with the return of the rain. But the new growth is much slower than the growth in spring and summer.

This makes fall a great time to prepare new areas for planting using methods like sheet-mulching.

I’ve put a link all about sheet-mulching in the resources section of the show notes if you want to learn more but sheet-mulching is where you put down layers of cardboard or something similar over the ground and then add compost, soil, leaves, etc. over the top of it.

This is a great way to prepare lawns and fields of grass for future planting.

The grass is smothered and dies and the cardboard will break down into soil. But this takes time to happen—you can’t sheet-mulch an area and plant in it a week or even a month later without having to cut through the cardboard and deal with the grass under it.

This is why sheet-mulching in the fall is a great way to prepare areas for future plantings.

Depending on how much life there is in your soil the grass and cardboard should have mostly decomposed by the end of the following spring.

And if you can wait till the following fall to plant you won’t have any cardboard or grass left to deal with. All you will need to do is pull back any mulch and plant it into the soil beneath it. Then just pull the mulch back to cover the exposed area around your new plant.

Sheet-mulching can be done in the spring and summer but I’ve found that grass and other plants are more likely to push through the cardboard since the plants are growing so much faster.

Plus since there is so much else to do on the land in the spring and summer I like to do my site prep work in the fall and winter.

And fall is a great time to top up any areas you’ve already mulched. Often by fall, any mulch layer will be getting thinner.

I like to add more mulch in the fall to keep areas from getting muddy when the rains come and to keep the soil a bit warmer. This can help protect sensitive plant roots and soil life from the cold.

Just be careful not to add too much mulch in areas where your non-woody herbaceous perennial plants have died back. You don’t want to make it hard for them to regrow come spring.

A great way to top up mulch in the fall is to let the living world do it for you. All those fall leaves are just the living world’s way of adding mulch to the soil.

As much as possible leave the leaves where they fall so they can protect the soil and help you cultivate abundance this fall.

I’ve put a link in the resources section of the show notes to a podcast episode all about the importance of fall leaves and how you can use them to cultivate abundance this fall for people, plants, and wildlife.

Create Space for Beneficial Critters

Here's how you can build a critter home

If you want to attract beneficial critters like ladybugs and frogs then you need to create space for them. Log pile critter homes are an easy way to do this.

While there are lots of things you could do this fall to cultivate abundance the last one I want to talk about is creating space for beneficial critters.

Though I’ve put a link in the resources section of the show notes to a blog post that covers more ways to cultivate abundance this fall.

If you’re growing food for your family and community then pests can be a big concern for you. Aphids and slugs aren’t most people’s favorite sign of spring.

But you can take steps this fall to help control them.

The first thing you can do is plant native plants. These plants have co-evolved with the wildlife that live in your area and will naturally support a greater diversity of life than non-native plants will.

This will result in more birds, frogs, and other beneficial critters that will help keep your pests in balance.

And as we talked about earlier in this episode fall is a great time to plant native plants.

I also love to create new critter homes over the fall and winter. We covered how to get started with critter homes and their role in the landscape in last week’s episode. I’ve put a link to that episode in the resources section of the show notes—make sure to check it out.

Critter homes can be as simple as 3-6 small logs stacked together in a way that mimics a single larger log providing a great place for frogs and other beneficial critters to call home.

A pile of small to medium-sized rocks can work too.

And the sooner you can make these in the fall the better. The reason is that ladybugs, frogs, and lots of other beneficial critters will be looking for places to hide and hibernate through the winter.

But even if your new critter homes aren’t built in time to help this fall they will provide space for beneficial critters when they wake up in the spring.

Often when I’m preparing areas for future plantings I will build critter homes at the same time. Building critter homes is part of how I prepare new areas for planting.

While you can build critter homes any time of the year I prefer to build them in the fall so they’re ready to go when the land wakes up in the spring. Plus, this spreads out the work and lets me focus on other tasks in the spring and summer.

Let’s Cultivate Abundance This Fall

Don't let the cold keep you from cultivating abundance this fall

This picture was taken a while back when I was out working in the cold. While this isn’t my favorite time to work I don’t let the cold stop me from cultivating abundance for people, plants, and wildlife.

Planting perennial plants, preparing areas for planting, and creating space for beneficial critters are all great ways to cultivate abundance this fall.

But they all have a downside.

You’ve got to get out when it’s cold and wet outside. And let’s face it—this is a big reason why lots of us don’t do work outside in the fall and winter.

As much as I do work outside in the fall and winter, I still don’t enjoy getting soaked by a cold fall storm when I’m trying to sheet-mulch an area.

Raingear helps but after a few hours the rain either finds its way through the gear or you get too hot and sweaty.

But despite all of this I still make sure to do work outside throughout the fall and winter. The benefits are just too great to ignore.

Not only do the tasks that we talked about today help cultivate abundance this fall they also spread out the work.

Spring and summer are when I’m building compost, planting annuals, harvesting food plants, and so much more.

Trying to prepare new planting areas, building critter homes, and planting perennials on top of everything else in the spring and summer is just too much.

I’ve tried to do it and when I do something else ends up not getting done. With 2 young kids, a full-time job, and creating weekly podcast episodes time management is very important for me.

And it’s something I need to get better at.

Spreading out the workload throughout the year is a big part of this. So when the kitchen garden goes to sleep in the fall I need to shift gears to the tasks covered in this episode.

Then come spring ideally I would stop doing these tasks and focus on others that can only be done in the spring and summer.

If you want to cultivate abundance for people, plants, and wildlife then learning to work with the seasons is a big part of that. Don’t try to cram everything into the spring and summer.

Until the snow gets too thick you can still do a lot of work outdoors in the fall. Don’t miss out on this time to cultivate abundance this fall.

And stay tuned for our next episode where we will look at ways to use wet areas on your property. And don’t forget to check out the show notes for links and resources related to the topics covered in this episode.


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

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