Just because summer is ending soon doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening! Lots of plants prefer cooler autumn weather. Try growing some of these flowers and vegetables for a bright and bountiful fall garden.
Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale grow best in the fall and can be planted before mid-September for a fall and winter harvest. Make sure that the temperature is not likely to go above 80 degrees after you’ve planted the spinach or it won’t germinate, although certain lettuce varieties can handle it. The kale will be sweeter if grown in the fall, especially if you leave it in the ground through a light frost.
Leeks are quite hardy, and can survive even during a winter freeze. Plant them around mid to late August or even into September. Try planting carrots late as well–they can stay in the ground until December. Cover them with hay to keep them warm. Sugar snap peas and snow peas can also tolerate frost, though you’ll want to plant them before the soil drops below 45 degrees.
Parsnips can actually stay in the ground all winter, and they taste better after several frosts. Just cover with hay or mulch before the snow starts. Another great fall root vegetable is the turnip, since it matures quickly (about 2 months) and is hardy enough to survive even in Siberia.
Chrysanthemums are known for being hardy, easy-to-grow perennials–they can withstand light frosts and continue blooming with bright, cheery flowers. Plant them where they will have room for the roots to spread out (18-30 inches) and plenty of sunlight. Many mums will even survive the winter, though you should mulch once it gets cold. Pansies are annuals that bloom in the fall and even winter in warmer climates, though they won’t survive a hard frost.
If you want to attract butterflies and other insects, plant goldenrods, which (contrary to popular belief) do not cause hay fever! Their tall, spiky clusters of yellow flowers also contrast well with colorful, daisy-like blooms of asters, which will bloom through October.
If you want to have daffodils, tulips, hyacinths or lilies blooming in early spring, you’ll need to plan ahead and plant the bulbs in late September and October so they can establish roots over the winter. Plant them when the ground has cooled, but before it freezes. This will be around the time when evening temperatures are in the 40s and 50s, about the time of the first frost, depending on your location. If you plant when the soil is too wet in warm, they might start to mildew, but you may want to buy your bulbs early to be sure you get the varieties you want, and just keep them in a cool dark area until it is time to plant them.
Because of variation in climates, be sure to consider the number of days required for a plant to mature and the time you have until the first frost before you start planting your fall garden.
Check out our average frost day charts here.
Find Plant Hardiness Zones.