You might think that gardening on the eastern side of the country in September and October means it’s time to relax and prepare for leafy fall activities. However, our summer weather tends to extend into fall, and thanks to the sunshine, we can easily have enough vegetables for another month to harvest and enjoy extended flowering time for working annuals and perennials in late summer. It’s also a break from cleaning at the moment, since the garden is actively growing.
Boxes of tempting spring bulbs are appearing in all nurseries and garden centers right now. Get some while you have plenty of options, and plant them later in the fall, when the rain comes. Keep in mind that critters love tulips but not daffodils. Consider short-lived hybrid tulips (tulip species last longer) and daffodils as permanent additions to the garden. The general rule for planting spring bulbs is to plant them 2 or 3 times deeper than the height of the bulb. Cluster the bulbs, but don’t let them touch each other. The larger the bulb, the better. Flowering bulbs take longer to bloom, and the flowers are elegant if they bloom at all.
If a particular blend of vegetables you like comes in one of those ever-shrinking clear plastic produce boxes, take note of the varieties listed on the ingredient label. All of these varieties are easy to find and easy to grow from seed. Make your own 50/50 or spring mix. It’s fun and simple to grow your own custom green mixes in the ground or in a container. Sprinkle the seeds on top. It’s okay to crowd them. Scratch the seeds and wait about two weeks until they become a solid “field” of green. Harvest what you need with scissors. Cut about two-thirds of the way down for a customized salad greens. They keep growing. Also add another crop of fast-growing carrots, spinach and radishes. Everything will bloom when the weather cools.
Flowering annuals that struggled through the cold, wet early spring are now peaking. Their bloom times are easily extended when the weather remains warm. They are “prosperous fools.” Garden arrogance (oh, yes, there is such a thing) often extends to supposedly “common and unpretentious” annuals, but without them, color in an early fall garden is limited.
Annuals such as marigolds, petunias, alyssum, lobelia, pelargonium (annual geranium), and zinnias may be popular but just look at the color now on the east side. Color is mostly common, not common. Annuals are the filler — if not the focus — of the rest of the year, but now they come into play in late summer and early fall. Some of these flowers will even replant, so don’t be too eager to remove all the spent flowers. It’s worth a shot. You can also try collecting seeds and starting them next spring. Keep dry seeds cool.