By Paul James
Despite this week’s heat wave, we all know that cooler temps are on the way and we’ll return soon to working in our gardens blissfully rather than gloomily. And I can’t wait for two reasons. One, I don’t enjoy gardening in the heat of summer. And two, fall is for planting!
That’s right. Fall is the absolute best time to plant a number of things, and in the weeks to come I’ll explain exactly why that is. But for now I want to get you thinking about what to plant this fall.
Trees and Shrubs
Starting now and continuing until the ground freezes (assuming it ever does), focus on planting most deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, including conifers. Seriously, folks, do yourselves a favor and get your trees and shrubs in the ground soon.
You absolutely can and should get perennials in the ground as well, and that includes both herbaceous and woody types. Plant now and they’ll come on strong in spring; plant in spring and they’ll just sit there for weeks.
Cool-season turf grasses such as fescue and rye can be planted from seed in the spring and fall, but fall is definitely the better of the two seasons, typically from mid-September to mid-October. Sowing from seed is simple and much cheaper than sod.
If you never had a fall vegetable garden, you’re missing out! As for what to plant (beginning now and continuing through at least September), go with everything you planted in spring, focusing especially on greens such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and so on, as well as root crops – beets, carrots, and turnips.
Mums, Pansies, and Assorted Annuals
Fall gardening is practically defined by mums and pansies, but keep in mind that lots of annuals are actually quite hardy, including Portulaca, Marigolds, and Petunias. And don’t forget ornamental Cabbage and Kale, both of which can handle temps in the mid-20s.
Planting time is still a month away, but planning time starts now. Have a close look at your existing flower beds and identify spots where a few bulbs would make a big difference in spring, or consider replacing large swaths of lawn with a sea of spring-flowering bulbs.