Tag Archives: chard

Planting The “Better Late Than Never” Garden For Fall

Chard and poppies mingling with pink gomphrena and the variegated hibiscus...

Chard and poppies mingling with pink gomphrena and the variegated hibiscus…

The owner of Oak Street Garden Shop, Billy Angell, and I have different approaches to gardening, mostly the result of our personalities, I think. Billy is very methodical and precise (not a bad thing), and I’m admittedly more undisciplined and haphazard in my gardening efforts.

I can almost feel him cringing as I yank just some of the  zinnias and other spent plants from the “better late than never” garden the other morning, rather than pulling everything out and starting  fresh with a completely new planting.  I’d gone in earlier than usual to take a look and assess what needed to be pulled out in anticipation of the fall/winter garden. I’ve been worrying that

Bachelor buttons and snapdragons...

Bachelor buttons and snapdragons…

as we get busier and busier with the fall planting season, not to mention the craziness of the holidays just around the corner, the garden could fall by the wayside; so the pressure is on!

Now, it wasn’t strictly just a pull some of the plants out mission. I had also brought a smattering of plants with me to plant here and there as holes conveniently opened up. A few iceland poppies, some snapdragons, bachelor buttons, foxglove, red mustard, chard, and  kale were all on my to-do list to plant.  Now, how all this mish-mash is going to turn out is anyone’s guess, since I’m not starting with a completely blank slate…but that’s half the fun!

Foxglove...under the sunflowers...

Foxglove…under the sunflowers…

This is how I’ve gardened at home for years. In the fall, I pull out spent flowering annuals a little at a time; and, as I do,  I add to the garden as holes open up. This works out well because not everything I want is available all at once, and the garden turns over to a new season gradually as summer annuals mingle with fresh plantings.

This year bachelor buttons, foxglove, and iceland poppies appeared in late September; so they’ve gone  into the first available spaces in the garden. More of them will be planted as room opens up. Summer annuals that are still hanging in are left to continue attracting late season butterflies and bees until the last will finally be pulled out to make way for the final winter plantings of pansies, violas, and, by seed, larkspur and delphinium. This planting method works well in beds that are a mix of perennials, annuals, and shrubs, too.

Poppies...

Poppies….

So, in the “better late than never garden”, the zinnias, cleome, and the few sunflowers I pull out (There are a lot more sunflowers to go!) make room for a few of each of the aforementioned snapdragons, iceland poppies, foxglove, bachelor buttons, kale, and mustard.  We’ll top dress the beds with PlantTone too and will see how the compost is looking in the bins, adding some of it if it’s ready.

In the coming days and weeks the garden will undergo even more changes until, finally, the last plants are in. Then it’s a waiting game until spring, when the real show will begin. Just don’t be surprised if you see us still planting in the dead of winter…I think the “better late than never” garden will always be just that!

 

 

Fall flowers…Pansies and More!

So many to choose from!

So many to choose from!

We’re so lucky in Birmingham to be able to plan and plant our winter and early spring gardens in the fall, using fresh annuals, like the colorful pansies and violas, as well as  various vegetables – ornamental and edible kale, cabbage, and pac choi are just a few. With summer’s heat behind us, time spent in the garden is a pleasure, not a chore.

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Soon all the tables in the nursery will be laden with plants of all kinds – this is such a great opportunity for you to create the most beautiful early spring garden!

IMG_1572Start with pansies and violas for beds and planters, then add supporting players. Some of the prettiest additions to your winter/early spring garden are foxglove with their tall spires of white, pink and purple, snapdragons – they are worth waiting for – poppies, with their bright orange, yellow, red and white papery blooms, and the bluest blue bachelor buttons.

 

 

Curley parsley and lettuce...

Curley parsley and lettuce…

 

There are so many leafy greens to interplant in containers and beds too – colorful chard, kale and mustard are so beautiful and edible as well. Curly parsley is another staple of the winter garden, adding its rich green leaves and texture to any composition.

Finally, don’t overlook the unassuming fall bulbs. Planting a bulb is a leap of faith for some, while other folks plant a few every year to add to their spring display. It’s truly amazing that such  beauty lies in something so seemingly drab.

Smart gardeners know to look for all of these in the fall, planting them in anticipation of a gorgeous spring display!

 

 

Fall Planting Tips To Create A Great Spring Garden:

  • Amend your soil. You might think since you followed our advice and added soil conditioner, PlantTone, cow manure or compost  to your beds last spring you’re done. Not so fast! High temperatures break down soil amendments quickly, and plants take up nutrients. Continue adding to your soil every season. Healthy, loose soils create healthy plants.  (Instead of putting fallen leaves to the curb, start a compost pile with them, or run over them with your lawn mower and throw them in your beds. They’ll decompose and add to your soil’s structure and health.)
  • After you get your plants home, be sure to keep them watered, especially if you can’t plant them right away. We water small transplants in 4″ pots and cell packs at least once a day, especially if it’s hot and sunny. Of course, less water is required in cloudy, cool conditions. Right before you plant them, be sure they’re moist.
  • Early in the season while the soil is still warm, you can still plant with Osmocote. However, later in the winter months, use Calcium Nitrate to feed your plants, especially if the foliage of your pansies turns a reddish color. Remember, you’re planting for spring color, though on warm days through the winter you should also have some blooms. Try some of Annie Haven’s Compost Tea this year, too!
  • Water your bed thoroughly after planting, and keep it watered while your transplants are getting their feet settled in their new home. Take care not to overwater, though, especially as the temperatures cool down going into the winter months.
  • Mulch your beds with shredded mulch or pine straw  to keep soil temperature around the roots as warm as possible.
  • Deadhead your pansies and violas! I can’t stress enough how important this is. A pansy that you leave a dead bloom on will form a seed there, instead of putting that energy into more flowers. Make a practice to walk through your garden at least once a week, taking a good look at your plants and deadheading  faded blooms. If you’ve missed some, you’ll see the seed pod beginning to form. Pinch any and all off! This will go a long way toward keeping your pansies happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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