If the biggest focal point in your backyard during fall is a pile of ready-to-rake leaves, then start digging. Rather than a time to wrap up your garden for the year, early fall—when the heat of summer begins to finally fade — is actually a perfect time to plant. For a beautiful garden you can enjoy this season and into the spring, we got a few tips from Tara Nolan of the popular gardening website Savvy Gardening.
Plan by counting backwards. Make sure you plant any perennials at least six weeks before your region’s hard frost date, so the plants have a chance to get established, says Nolan. This is especially important if you’re planting from seeds, which can need extra time to mature. The frost date can range from early October in Buffalo, New York to….never in Miami, Florida. Find yours by searching for “USDA frost date,” and refer to each plant’s directions when considering how much time you have.
Try cool-weather-loving veggies. Beets, carrots, and radishes all flourish in fall, as do certain greens (like lettuce and spinach), and members of the brassica family (kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts). Fall is also a great time to plant bulbs—including edible bulbs like garlic, says Nolan.
Get ahead for a spring harvest. Depending on where you live, numbing temps and heavy snowfall can KO some spring-producing plants. (Using raised beds and winter protection like row covers can help, though.) Still, there are some spring-producing perennials that also have gorgeous foliage during fall, says Nolan. “Bushel and Berry, a company with a collection of self-pollinating berry plants, offers some great varieties with lovely foliage,” she says. “Pink Icing, for example, has leaves that change from pink with blue and green to turquoise in winter.” For more choices, budding gardeners might want to check out Stark Bro’s.
Add vibrant color. Your summer annuals are done and done, so replace them with a rainbow of fall blooms. Chrysanthemums (aka mums) are one of the most popular for good reason — they’re available in a palette of pretty colors and will keep your yard in blossoms through the end of football season.
For other ideas, Nolan suggests getting inspiration at your local nursery. “See what’s in bloom or near blooming that you can incorporate into your garden,” she says. Some of her favorite perennials include Japanese anemones (which produce delicate two-toned flowers), “Autumn Joy” sedum (a succulent with clumps of red and bronze blooms) and asters (an easy-to-grow plant whose flowers commonly come in shades of pink, purple, or blue).
Build a perfect pot. Container gardening lets you dip a toe into fall planting—or add color to a small space. Nolan likes to use a mix of annuals and perennials in her fall pots. (When you’re ready to take it apart, move the plants to your garden to enjoy next year.)
“Heuchera is one of my favorites; it’s a leafy perennial that comes in a wide range of colors,” says Nolan. “Depending on my color theme, I’ll choose one with deep purple or almost-black leaves, or a harvest hue like caramel.” Try it with a mix of other great container plants like purple and green kale, ornamental peppers, and mums.
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