Plan for Fall Planting
Planting trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers in the fall is a good way to give new additions to the garden a headstart on next year. Most of these plants are available either in pots or balled-and-burlapped, which means they can, theoretically, be planted anytime during the growing season, but most summers are too hot and dry for ensured success. As temperatures cool and rain increases during September and October, your chances for success rise. As you enjoy your garden this summer, study both where some new plants would improve your garden and which ones would be best. Then, you'll be prepared for some serious shopping and planting this fall.
Garlic may seem a mundane vegetable to grow yourself, but it's so easy to grow and so satisfying to see the green shoots in early spring that surely you can find some space. Plus, you can grow a much wider range of varieties than is available at the grocery. For the widest choice of dozens of varieties, you'll want to mail-order your garlic sets. Supply is often limited, so by ordering now you'll be assured of having the garlic on hand for planting in October or November. In choosing varieties, be sure to include at least one hardneck variety to have garlic scapes, the flower stalks that are so wonderful in stir fries or for making pesto.
Add Fall-Blooming Flowers
Garden centers now have pots of fall-blooming flowers, like chrysanthemums, asters, and ornamental kale, available. And not a moment too soon to freshen the garden with dramatic color in the garden where heat- and drought-stressed plants maybe looking a big woebegone. Although some of these may be perennial in nature, they are usually treated as annuals. The varieties of mums, especially, that are sold in late summer are usually not winter hardy. If you would prefer hardy mums, talk with someone at a garden center for recommendations.
Try Fast-Growing Turnips
If you think of turnips as strong-tasting, giant, purple-topped roots that are best used as survival food, you're missing out on a crisp-textured, quick-growing fall vegetable, the Asian turnip. These are usually ready for picking in 35 to 45 days, and are great for eating fresh like radishes or lightly steamed. The greens can be stir-fried or added to soups. Varieties to try include the white-skinned Hakurei, Tokyo Cross, or Tokyo Market or the red-skinned Hidabeni or Red Round.
Plant Fall Crocuses and Colchicums
It may be too late to mail order fall crocuses and colchicums, but check local garden centers to see if they have the bulbs available of these season-bending flowers, varying in shades of lavender, purple, pink, or white. Plant them immediately, 3 to 4 inches deep and apart, then enjoy the flowers as they emerge and bloom yet this fall. Of the fall-blooming crocuses, the most widely known is the saffron crocus, a plant with a long history of culinary, dye, and medicinal uses.