Although the high blush of summer may be over, that doesn’t mean that your love affair with your garden has to come to an end. Although autumn has the reputation for heralding the impending death or dormancy of many plants, there are actually a number of ways home gardeners can easily extend the life of their landscape well into the late months of the year, while preparing the garden for the coming tumult of cold and wintry weather.
Think Vegetables. Vegetable gardening has seen a resurgence of interest over the past few years, as ambitious land owners seek to make the most of every food dollar. Luckily, in many parts of the country—particularly in Texas—autumn can be one of the most productive in terms of vegetable growth. The searing summer heat is gone, and more moderate temperatures encourage growth of traditional fall vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets and turnips. In most of Central Texas, the first frost of the fall isn’t expected until roughly mid-November to mid-December, so September is the ideal time to get seedlings for these vegetables into the ground. In Southern Texas, with no frosts, vegetable gardening can go through the fall into late Spring, offering a long and productive growing season.
Think Color. Once the color has faded from your summer plants, you can make the move into some stunning autumnal annuals. Mums, pansies, snapdragons, violas, and cyclamen are just some of the fall annuals that bloom well in Texas, and they can extend your enjoyment of the garden into the late autumn and early winter. In addition, ornamental varieties of cabbages and kale also provide intense color and variegated interest in your garden, and they withstand the rigors of fall weather thanks to their hardiness and toleration of cooler temperatures.
Think Fun. Fall can be a great time for gardeners to enjoy their outdoor spaces for one last season, taking advantage of cooler, crisp evenings and mild, sunny days to entertain friends and family, or simply relax with a good book and a beverage. Creating snug spaces outdoors for fun can be as easy as grouping some chairs with an outdoor fire pit, accentuating the space with whimsical container plantings that incorporate some of the season’s best annuals. You can also make the area more welcoming by adding throw blankets to seating, changing out pillow covers from summer to autumn color themes, and adding a rug underfoot to bring comfort and define the space.
Think Spring. Finally, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, Fall is the time when gardeners do their best preparation for the excitement of the Spring garden. The duties of fall gardening—deadheading, trimming, pruning and fertilizing—may not be the most glamorous of gardening duties, but they are the keys to having a healthy, colorful and productive garden throughout the next year. So as you enjoy fall’s beautiful—though shorter—days, don a cap, go out into the garden with tools in hand, and make the best of these routine but all-important tasks. After all, come the cold weather of winter, you’ll enjoy knowing that all has been put right, and that your garden will once again explode into the glory of Spring, thanks to your careful and attentive care.