With the dog days of summer behind us, it's time to start making plans for your fall garden. Whether you're new to container gardening or just want to brush up on the basics, these five steps will give you stunning pots all autumn long. 


Step 1: Choose a Container

Planters can be made of fiberglass, iron, heavy plastic, glazed pottery, concrete or stone. Thicker-walled planters will protect plant roots from heat and cold weather stress. Make sure the container has adequate drainage and drill more holes if necessary. If you already have a planter, measure it and take a picture before heading to the garden center.


Step 2: Use Quality Growing Mix

Good potting soil is not something to skimp on. For example, The Good Earth Garden Center's professional potting soil is specially formulated for container gardening and features an iron source, beneficial bacteria, humic acid, perlite, peat moss, pH adjustments and a nutrient starter charge. Meanwhile, the inexpensive 50-pound bags of potting soil are too heavy for most annuals and perennials, and the planters won’t drain as well as the roots will require. 


Step 3: Choose Your Plants

This is the most exciting part. Make sure to get plants with fall foliage or winter interest. Some examples include autumn fern, ornamental cabbage and kale, heucheras, ivy, pansies and violas. For larger planters, consider adding in evergreen shrubs like yew, camellia, fatsia or boxwoods and surrounding these larger plants with smaller perennials and annuals. For trailing color, try Cool Wave pansies for cascading color all season.

All of these plants can be kept in planters for several seasons if they are placed in the appropriate amount of sun, have enough root room to grow and can then be planted out in the landscape. Keep in mind that fall arrangements, which include tender plants like crotons, will need to be renovated again with plants that last all winter. However, there are plenty of great plant options to create a winter hardy arrangement that will look great during fall as well.


Step 4: Give Your Container a Jump Start

Your plants need nourishment. One option is Good Earth's Jump Start, which contains mycorrhizae that increases the water and nutrient utilization of your plants by up to 1,000 times. To increase blooming, try adding Ferti-Lome's Premium Bedding Plant Food as a granular, slow-release fertilizer to the soil when planting. Pansies and other cool season bloomers utilize fertilizer when temperatures reach above 50 degrees, so apply a water-soluble fertilizer such as BR-61 for a quick and dramatic impact.


Step 5: Water & Enjoy

Water, or lack thereof, is the biggest detriment to fall and winter plantings. Plants do not like to freeze dry. If a cold snap is coming and we haven’t seen rain lately, water the planter well. Pay special attention to planters under cover that do not get rainfall. Arkansas weather stays warm throughout the fall, so water thoroughly at planting and check the pots every few days for additional water.


For more fall container recipes, click here.