Tag Archives: fall planting

Garden Checklist: Late Sept. & Oct.

It’s officially autumn. We’re finishing up with the major summer harvests, but September and October are still important months in the garden. This fall, a few chores can help you have winter harvests, build healthy soil, and have a beautiful, productive garden next season. Here are a few of the tasks we think it’s important to consider this time of year. 

Buy and plant perennial onions, garlic, shallots, and bulbs.

Spring isn’t the only planting season. If you haven’t already, it’s time to select and order perennial onions, garlic, shallots, and certain fall-planted flower bulbs like daffodils and tulips. The sooner you order, the larger the selection you’ll have to choose from.

Exact planting dates may vary depending on your hardiness zone, but here in Virginia, it’s best to plant them between September 15th and November 15th.

Think about winter composting.

It takes a bit of work, but you can keep composting all winter. We recommend building a large pile and covering it to give your compost more protection from the elements. We have a whole article which you can find here for those interested in making compost all winter long. 

Add more mulch.

September and October are good times to apply a layer of mulch before winter. We like to mulch around perennials like asparagus, fruit trees, rhubarb, strawberries, and in between rows of fall crops. Mulch will help keep the soil around these plants warmer for a little longer and helps prevent heaving.

Sow more quick-growing fall veggies.

In zone 7a, where we’re located and farther south, you’ve still got time to sneak in a few more crops. You can still sow mustards, spinach, radishes, and turnips. 

Create season extension.

You don’t need a fancy greenhouse to extend your garden’s season. There are many affordable, easy ways to give fall and winter crops a little extra protection. From low tunnels to hotbeds, check out all of our ideas on our post, Easy Season Extension for Fall.

Sow fall cover crops.

If you only complete one fall gardening task, it should be to sow fall cover crops. Fall cover crops have a myriad of benefits. They protect soil from erosion, add organic matter, encourage beneficial insects, and more. Some of our favorites include crimson clover, winter rye, hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas, and white dutch clover. Learn more about choosing a winter crop for your garden and how to plant them here.

Collect leaves.

Autumn leaves are gold for gardeners! They’re a great carbon-rich ingredient to add to your homemade compost, and they make excellent mulch by themselves. You can also shred them to create leaf mold for DIY potting mixes.

All you need is a rake and somewhere to pile them where they won’t blow away. Multi-bin compost set-ups are great for this. You may also be able to collect them from friends and neighbors too. Just make sure the yards you’re getting them from haven’t been treated with herbicides that could contaminate your garden.

Be diligent about draining your hose and sprinkler.

Depending on where you’re located, the first fall frosts are getting closer. It’s time to make sure you drain any sprinklers and nozzles and disconnect hoses after each use. Taking care of your equipment this fall means you won’t have to buy new next spring.

Save seeds.

In much of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, September and even October are still bringing in good harvests. This can also be an excellent time to save seed from some of your favorite varieties. Check out our Seed Saving for Beginners article to learn how to save seed from tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, peppers, peas, and beans. Here are some of our other favorite seed saving posts:

Get a soil test.

Testing your soil is an often overlooked aspect of gardening. Fall is a great time to get this done so you can amend your garden before next season. Especially if you consistently struggle with certain crops, a soil test can make a huge difference in your gardening success. Soil tests will tell you the availability of macro and micronutrients in your garden, as well as the soil pH. They’re readily available through most county extension agencies.

Check out Understanding Soil Tests to learn more.

Leave some standing dead plants.

It can be tempting to give your garden a clean sweep in the fall but don’t do it! Leave some standing dead material like echinacea, sunflower, and other flower stalks. These are vital habitats for many beneficial insects, and they often provide winter food sources and perches for songbirds. 

The exception to this is removing pest-ridden or diseased material such as tomato plants with fungal diseases or dead asparagus stalks that had asparagus beetles. We recommend burning material like this as most home composts don’t get hot enough to kill insects and diseases.

Continue watering.

If your area is getting plenty of rain, this won’t be an issue. However, if you’re still experiencing some warm, dry spells, keeping up with watering is vital. Water any fall crops that are still growing and perennials, especially those you just planted this year.

Store crops properly.

If you’re still bringing in crops, it’s essential to harvest, cure, and store them properly. Here are a few of our guides to help you put up the harvest:

Sow flowers.

It may come as a surprise to some but fall is a great time to start your spring flower garden. Many cool-weather loving flowers are great for fall sowing, including violas, sweet peas, echinacea, and coreopsis. Check out our Spring Flowers: Fall Sowing post for more ideas and a few planting tips.

There are so many fall activities to enjoy, but don’t forget to take some time for your garden. Cool fall weather is the perfect time to complete these essential garden tasks. 

Spring Flowers: Fall Sowing

If you garden at all in the fall, you probably think primarily about leafy greens and root crops. The big focus is garlic, perennial onions, and tough vegetables that can overwinter in hoop houses and cold frames. However, fall is also a great time to start working on next season’s flower garden. 

Fall sown seeds will bloom earlier, helping you create a colorful garden throughout spring and summer. They won’t grow during the winter but will take off in the spring much faster than spring-sown flowers. Fall sowing can also allow you to direct sow more seeds rather than start them indoors in the spring. 

Cool-season annuals, flowers that readily self-sow, perennials, biennials, and native flowers are generally good choices for fall sowing. Some flowers like certain varieties of echinacea and Dara will grow better when fall sown. This is because these seeds require a cold period to germinate well. 

Helen Mt. Johnny Jump-Up

Flowers you can sow this fall include:

Generally, it’s best to sow or transplant these flowers 4 to 6 weeks before your first fall frost. You’ll notice that many flowers are dropping seeds around this time. This gives them time to establish a good root system before winter begins. Sow these flower seeds in beds that receive full sun. Prepare your bed ahead of time by loosening the soil with a garden fork or broad fork, adding a couple of inches of well-aged compost, and raking it smooth. Plant each variety as usual, according to packet instructions. 

Northern gardeners may need to provide their plants with extra protection such as low tunnels or wait until early spring.

You may also want to consider preparing for next summer by gathering materials for staking or trellising flowers that require it, such as sweet peas and hollyhocks. If you’re growing cut flowers, setting up a horizontal netting while the plants are still small and allowing the flowers to grow up through it can help keep them straight and tidy.

September Planting

Cool crisp September mornings are a pleasant time to spend in the garden. While fall brings cooler temperatures and dwindling sunlight it can still be a productive time in the vegetable patch. Here are a few plants you can sow this September and a few of our favorite fall varieties. In Virginia we’re sowing:

  • Mustards
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Lettuce
  • Endive
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • Austrian Peas
  • Winter Wheat

Always keep in mind that exact planting dates will vary with your location. For those farther south, you’ll still be planting less cold-hardy crops while those in the far north should be preparing to plant garlic and perennial onions. September is also a good time to think about season extension.

Chinese Thick-Stem Mustard

This variety from Even’ Star Farm offers superb cold tolerance and is hardy down to 6°F. It also has excellent flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. Though not quite as cold tolerant, Red Giant Mustard can also be used for fall planting and adds a nice pop of color.

Lacinato Rainbow Mix Kale

This variety offers the delicious flavor of Lacinato kale and gorgeous colors. Created by crossing classic Lacinato with Redbor hybrid kale; this kale is extra-cold-hardy! The 2014 seed crop went through a -6°F freeze and seed was saved from the plants that survived. This OSSI variety was bred by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed.

Even’ Star Winter Arugula

Another Even’ Star Farm variety, this arugula is cold-hardy down to 6°F. It can be grown in open fields or hoop houses and does well with little watering and poor soil fertility. 

Red Salad Bowl

A great fall variety with gorgeous color. Salad Bowl is also a good choice for a green fall lettuce.

Rouge d’Hiver (Red Winter) Romaine Lettuce

Here in Virginia, we’ve had good luck overwintering this variety under row cover. It’s a tasty French heirloom that dates back to 1840. Rouge d’Hiver forms semi-open romaine heads.

Misato Rose Fall Radish

Beautiful and forgiving, this radish deserves a place in your fall garden. Perfect for adding color to autumn salads this radish will bulb properly even when crowded or thinned late.

Winter Bloomsdale Spinach

Adapted for fall planting and overwintering, these slow-bolting plants are resistant to blue mold, blight, and mosaic. They have dark green, well-savoyed leaves.

Nabo Roxo Comprido Turnip

These long white, purple-topped turnips are widely grown in Portugal as a dual-purpose crop. They’re excellent for fall planting and can be used as fodder as well as great eating for the winter table.

Austrian Winter Peas

Hardy to 0°F, Austrian Winter Peas make an excellent edible cover crop. They fix nitrogen in the soil and the tendrils or growing tips can be snipped off for use in salads!

Hard Winter Wheat

Bred in the Southeast, this new variety produces excellent grain for baking or can be used as a cover crop. It provides high yields and has very good wheat rust resistance.

This September, try a couple of SESE fall favorites in your vegetable patch. It’s also an excellent time to plant cover crops which can help improve your soil’s health. This time of year can also be used to add perennials to your landscape.