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Not only is fall my favorite time of the year because of a change in the weather, but it is the best time to plant almost everything. For those of you who are new to gardening or new residents of this part of our wonderful country, fall may seem the time to get ready for winter. Know this above all other gardening facts: There is rarely a time of the year here that you cannot be in the yard planting or maintaining your plants!
Here is a very sketchy list of my fall activities: September – mid-November Pansies, Violas, Snapdragons, and other cool weather annuals can be planted to give you color throughout the cooler months. While a freeze may make them look a little shabby, the warmer days of winter (and we have lots of them) will bring them back to life and color. Remember to water them if we have a dry time. A little fertilizer occasionally will help to keep them growing. The soil is a warm place for their roots. If planted in a container, the soil may freeze and this presents a problem for the roots. So if you are planting in pots, bring them in for a short period when the temperature drops below freezing for several days.
Perennial plants are best planted during this time if you can find some. Of course, Chrysanthemums are plentiful. Plant them, enjoy their bloom, and when spring arrives, cut back the dead foliage and watch new growth come from the roots. Irises, Day Lilies, Daisies and other perennial plants can be planted or divided during this time. Perennials are a wonderful addition to your landscape.
An example of healthy collard plants in Kathy’s garden. Special photo
This is a great time to plant cool season grass – tall fescue is a favorite. Prepare your soil well and fertilize. Of course, sod is installed all winter long. I had zoysia installed in January and it really did well – greened up in the Spring when the soil became warm.
October – mid-November Plant fall vegetables from plants (collards, cabbage, kale, broccoli). As with turnips, radishes and carrots, you can plant kale and collard seed directly into the soil. These plants and seed are available earlier in the season and can be planted in September successfully. However, since I do not use insecticides or fungicides on my vegetables, I find that the cabbage looper (worm that comes from that little white “butterfly” that visits the garden), aphids and other voracious insects destroy my crop. So I choose to plant when the weather becomes cooler, focusing my earlier activity on soil preparation.
This is the perfect time to plant those wonderful dormant bulbs of Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus, Hyacinths, Oriental Lilies and a plethora of others throughout your landscape. If you cannot find the ones you want locally, then go online to a bulb provider and order them. They are a great garden investment. Bulbs last for years if squirrels do not dig them up.
October – November This is the very best time to plant Magnolias and Crape Myrtles. While other trees can be planted throughout the winter months, these two really prefer to be planted in the warmer months of winter. Once I planted some Crape Myrtles in the freezing soil and they did not break dormancy until late July. Then they were fine but they looked dead for most of the summer when they should have been green and flowering.
October – March Tree and shrub planting time. Whether it is a large tree or a small one, this is the time that you can plant and not have to water so much. Just prepare the planting area well, plant (not too deep), mulch the top of the soil and water only when we have a dry spell. The roots will grow throughout the winter and when the blazing hot weather of summer arrives, your plant will have established a root system that will better tolerate drought than if you had waited and planted in the Spring.
Just know that you have moved to one of the best year-round gardening areas. While the soil may be a little hard to work with, the climate is excellent. Soil preparation is the key to successful growth, so spend your time and resources on getting it right. Topsoil, organic amendments, and proper ground work are necessary to establish a good root system.
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As you well know !