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Ready for Fall Gardening? Me Too!

By Paul James

Okay, so I may be jumping the gun a bit by writing about fall gardening in August. After all, fall is still 32 days away. But it does seem as though the worst of summer is behind us, which means the time to start planning (and even in some cases planting) is now. So here’s a rundown of the things you should consider getting done in the weeks to come.

Trees and Shrubs

Without a doubt, fall is the best time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs, because their roots grow rapidly in warm autumn soils. And with a well developed root system, they’re in a much better position to “push” new growth in spring. If you water wisely, it’s okay to plant smaller, container trees and shrubs now. However, I’d still wait another three weeks or so before planting large trees. And keep in mind that you can continue planting until the ground freezes (assuming it ever does).


The same rule that applies to large trees applies to conifers of any size. Wait until temps cool down a bit. Shoot for late September.

Fescue and Rye

As true cool-season grasses, fescue and rye germinate and grow best when daytime temps are in the 70s to low 80s and overnight temps drop into the 50s to low 60s. Around here, that usually means September through October.


Plant away, but water routinely so roots don’t dry out.


Fall is my absolute favorite time in the veggie garden, because temperatures are ideal for growing most of the same veggies that are grown in spring. From seed, plant beets, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. You can also plant potatoes for a fall harvest. It’s best to start with transplants rather than seeds if you plan on growing broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.

You can start planting now and continue through September. After all, many greens, including lettuce and spinach, are ready to harvest in as few as 30 days. And most cool-season vegetables can withstand temperatures close to freezing, so you may be able to get a second crop in before winter sets in. Just make sure you water well, as in every day, during the hot days of August and September, to keep the seeds moist.


Although spring-flowering bulbs typically arrive in early September, you should wait until October to plant them, and continue planting through November. Feel free to go ahead and buy them to make sure you get the varieties you want, but keep them stored in a paper bag in the garage until planting time.

Mums and Pansies

What’s fall without mums and pansies, right? Both can be planted as soon as they’re available, whether in the ground or in containers, and both are cold hardy.

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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16 responses to “Ready for Fall Gardening? Me Too!”

  1. Phyllis Adams says:

    You mentioned planting bulbs…does this include caladium bulbs? And are caladium bulbs perennials here in Oklahoma?

    • Paul James says:

      Caladiums are not perennial. They’re best planted in late spring. If you plant them too early they’ll rot.

  2. Vicky Courtney says:

    Have a very overgrown Japanese Maple And would like to trim its height by 1/3. What time of year is best?

  3. Kathleen Neal says:

    I plantednsome lilacs earlier in the summer but one seems to have rust colored spots on some of the leaves and they are curled inward. We’ve had a lot of humidity and I didn’t help any by misting them. Questions:
    1. Does it sound like leaf blight and if so, will it just get worse?
    2. Will it kill the plant or just look ugly?
    3. Will I wind up needing to replace it so it won’t spread to the other one?
    4. What would you recommend?

    • Paul James says:

      Without actually seeing the leaves, I can’t make a definitive diagnosis, but based on your description it does sound as though the culprit is a fungal disease. This late in the season, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You can (and probably should) remove the infected leaves and trash them. When the leaves drop later in fall, rake them and trash them. And stop misting. Next spring, just as new leaves begin to appear, consider spraying the plants with a fungicide such as Bonide Revitalize or Bonide Copper.

  4. Bob White says:

    When is the best time to divide Louisiana irises?

    (Are the Tuesday evening meetings over?)

    • Paul James says:

      Best time is now, actually. I’m doing a chat next Thursday on fall veggie gardening.

  5. Faye Evans says:

    Tell me more about the chat on fall veggie garden next Thursday, please. Faye Evans

    • Paul James says:

      I’ll be sharing tips and tricks on what to grow and how to achieve success with fall veggies. And I’ll answer questions from participants.

  6. Jeanette Hardesty says:

    Hi! We have many shrubs, (mainly box -woods) and trees that need trimming. When is the best time to prune? Things are getting overgrown. Thank you.

    • Paul James says:

      Best time to prune boxwood is in early spring. Pruning now will result in new growth that will likely be damaged during the winter. Deciduous trees that don’t flower in early spring should be pruned in February. Those that do flower in spring should be pruned right after they bloom.

  7. Debe Judah says:

    My hydrangeas absolutely refuse to bloom! I’ve tried everything. They’re big, & green! Only thing I can think of is it’s too shady. Elephant ears, hostas, & ferns all love it in the same area. Any suggestions?

  8. Tom Peters says:

    Hi Paul, quick question. After recent storms here in Connecticut I lost several trees because of my neighbors brittle locust trees snapping and and falling on and destroying a prized dogwood amongst another 8 trees. I’m looking to get a unique evergreen, one that grows to at least 30 feet tall. Any suggestions? Thanks

    • Paul James says:

      Norway Spruce, Cryptomeria radicans, any number of pines and firs, Alaskan cedar. Lots of possibilities. Sorry about the storm damage.