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Countdown to Fall…Finally!

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.

Turf Grass

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.

Fall Veggies

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.

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6 responses to “Countdown to Fall…Finally!”

  1. TERESA says:


  2. Colleen says:

    What to use to get rid of scale on Laurels & Crape Myrtles? Have been using Bifen & Neem oil for past several weeks. Has not worked, even though I sprayed every week for the past month. Thanks!

    • Paul James says:

      Bifen probably won’t have much effect on scale, but neem should do the trick. It’s hard to say why it isn’t working for you, especially after repeated applications. Are you sure the scale insects are still alive? Once they die, their "shells" often remain on plants.

  3. Ada Richardson says:

    My crape myrtles have mildew on them. What can I co about them.
    Ada Richardson

    • Paul James says:

      If it’s powdery mildew, which is white, just spray with horticultural oil. If it’s black, that’s the result of scale insects secreting honeydew. If that’s the case, first use a stiff brush and soapy water to remove the scale and the mildew. Follow that up with a thorough spraying of neem oil.