Your summer garden may be at the height of its beauty right now, but there’s still tons of time to add plants that will extend gardening season well into fall. In fact, many flowers and edibles don’t really start to shine until autumn’s sunny days and cooler nights arrive. Annual and perennial flowers and many vegetables will keep producing all the way until a hard freeze. Just make sure when planting perennials, which return for many years, that they can survive winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find your zone here). Also, most perennials need to be planted at least a month before the ground freezes in your area; if you’re not sure when that is, your local university coop extension service can offer some guidance.
Curious what to plant in the fall? Here are a few of our favorite plants:
This iconic fall flower comes in every shade of the rainbow and makes a lovely backdrop for fall pumpkins and squashes in displays on your front porch or balcony. Technically, mums are a perennial—if you plant them in spring when their roots have time to get established before winter. However, if you plant mums in fall, when you’ll find them at garden centers and nurseries, they may not survive winter. Don’t fret! They’re inexpensive enough to treat as annuals, and you can plant new ones next year.
Asters are another perennial that every fall garden should have. Plant them any time in the fall about six to eight weeks before the ground freezes in your area, and they’ll provide reliable color again next year. Pollinators love these pink, purple, lavender, and white flowers which bloom around the same time as mums. Next spring, don’t be too impatient to dig up the “dead” plants; asters often don’t pop through the earth again until mid-May in many climates.
You don’t have to bid adieu to your veggie garden in fall; many vegetables, such as kale, actually prefer cooler weather. Plant kale seeds in mid to late summer for a fall harvest. Some types, such Red Russian kale, actually will overwinter in cold climates and green up again in spring for an early harvest.
Why pay grocery store prices for baby greens when you can grow them yourself? Plant seeds of mixed greens, also known as mesclun, in late summer for a harvest in as little as 30 days. Snip off the leaves when they are just a few inches long, and the plants will keep producing to extend your harvest.
Fall is a great time to plant perennial herbs, which come back year after year and thrive in either pots or planting beds. Plant herbs such as thyme, oregano, mint, and sage any time from summer to mid fall, and you’ll be able to harvest now and up until a hard freeze. In mild climates, you can pick fresh herbs for most of the winter.
These sunny-faced perennials start blooming mid-summer and go throughout early fall. Plant them anytime up to about six weeks before your area’s first frost. There are both annual and perennial types, so read the tag or plant description to be sure about what you’re buying.
Plant garlic in mid to late fall for a harvest next year in early to mid-summer. There are both hard neck and soft neck varieties. Hard neck types, from which you also can harvest the curly edible stems or “scapes” in June, typically are hardier in northern climates. Soft neck varieties tend to store longer. But you can plant both types of this easy-to-grow edible for plenty of garlic to last you for months.
It’s a lesser known green, but Swiss chard is a colorful edible that almost doubles as an ornamental plant due to its bright stems and pretty leaves. Plant Swiss chard in mid-summer for a late fall harvest.
Radishes are one of the easiest, fastest crops you can grow. Plant the tiny seeds from late summer to early fall for a fall harvest. Some types are ready in as little as 21 days.
These pretty perennials bloom late in the summer to mid-fall, depending on the variety. They return year after year with a very long bloom time. Plant no later than about six weeks before the ground freezes in your area.
Like their edible cousins, ornamental cabbage and kale are lovely cold-hardy annuals that dress up window boxes, containers and planting beds well past the first freeze. Grow them from seed starting in mid-summer or purchase transplants in September or October for fall planting.
Pansies and violas don’t mind the cold and will survive a light frost. These sweet-faced annuals will last most of the winter in warmer climates. They can be planted any time throughout the fall to add color to window boxes, containers and beds.
Many different types of sedum exist, but the upright forms are especially pretty in autumn. They also make a great long-lasting cut flower. Plant this perennial no later than about four weeks before the ground freezes.
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