Now that we are full swing into fall, if you’re like me you are going to go to bed on Halloween night and wake up on January 1 with some well-rotted Jack-O-Lanterns. And while we might be sad at the thought of another season ending, wipe those tears away, because now is the best time to get things planted, fed and decorated for the season.
First things first- it’s time to refresh the front pots! Many annuals like Petunias, Geraniums and ‘Snow Princess’ Alyssum can take shockingly cool temps so salvage what you can and add Ornamental Cabbage, pumpkins and gourds, Creeping Jenny, Pansies and Ivy to jazz things up.
Now is still a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The ground around here won’t freeze solid until at least January (if at all) and anything you can plant can start to establish before the heat of summer. Some great plants to add fall color are Sweetspire, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Tiger Eye Sumac, Blackgum, Red Maple, Gingko, Beautyberry, Hardy Geranium, perennial Plumbago, Amsonia and Blueberries.
Every spring I tell myself that next year will be the year I plant banks of spring-blooming Tulips. But while Tulips are beautiful, here in the Midwest they should be treated more like an annual. Try Alliums and Daffodils instead! Both are bunny and deer resistant and reliably perennial! Allium, an ornamental onion, is most popular as the giant ‘Globemaster’ but available in many sizes and shades. And try planting white daffodils for an unexpected and elegant pop of spring color. All spring blooming bulbs need a cold period to bloom and so must be planted now. Its super easy – plant bulbs noses in the air, about 3 times deeper than the height of the bulb and just wait for the show.
Just because you’ve pulled out your tomatoes does not mean that the veggie season is over. Many veggies not only tolerate but perform best in cooler temps. Now is the time to grow lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, kale, mustard, leeks, garlic and onions. Think of the salads and soups this fall! If temperatures dip below freezing throw a frost blanket over the tender leaves, especially lettuce, or try your hand at constructing a cold frame by hinging windows on the raised bed.
The longer evenings of fall are just calling out for candlelight. But with kids… and pets…and curtains… real-flame candles can cause a major fire hazard. I am hooked on Luminara candles! They are a battery operated candle with such a realistic flame I guarantee someone will try to blow it out! Put some in lanterns by your front door and more inside in sconces, on the mantle- anywhere that reflects the dancing flame.
If you only feed your lawn once, now is the time. In fall and winter, grass plants naturally want to thicken up, putting their energy into root and stem development. Simply put – grass will eat up all the food you give it without growing tall. Quick-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer, often called Winterizer, should be applied 2-3 times, 4 weeks apart.
You can also find Erin’s article in the November issue of the The Kansas City Gardener.