With summer annuals fading away and the days getting shorter, it’s time to start planning — and planting — for the next stage of our garden.
“September is a good time to take out your tired annuals and plant decorative cabbages and kales for late fall,” said Chuck Roth, owner of Chesterton Feed & Garden in Chesterton. “Their colors intensify as it grows colder, adding color to your garden."
Another pretty addition for autumn gardens is the rainbow chard, an edible plant known for both its health benefits as well as spectacular looks — deep green and bronze leaves offset with brightly ribbed veins and stems in such colors as purple, red, gold, pink, orange and white.
A mainstay of autumn gardens are asters and mums.
“(They) are perennials and will flower late into the fall season and also are good for color,” Roth said. “If you want them to carry over to the next season, it’s best to plant them early in the fall so their root system has time to develop."
He said this is particularly important when it comes to mums because they’ve lost their hardiness as breeders have focused on increasing the flower size and making them showier.
“Mums and asters also make great container plants in the fall,” he said.
Planting early is also important when it comes to bulbs because it allows the root system to develop. But if you can’t get to it right away, that’s OK, he said, noting the ground keeps its warmth even when the air grows colder.
Wayne Gruber, of Niemeyer’s Landscape Supply, recommends adding fall flowering crocus this season, which bloom just weeks after being planted and look good both in the ground and in pots.
“Fall is, of course, one of the best time to add plants such as trees, shrubs and perennials to your garden,” Gruber said. “Temperatures are still warm, there is usually ample rainfall, and the ground temperatures stay warm well into the fall allowing plants to root and establish for the coming spring season.”
When planting for the new year, Gruber says one of his favorite fall combinations includes "Gibraltar" Bush Clover, a shrub covered with small pink/purple blooms and Summer Wine Ninebark, which has pink blooms in summer and in autumn, exfoliating bark and foliage that turns a bright red. The final additions to this combination are Blue Puff Ball chaste tree, whose dark blue-purple fragrant flowers appear at the tips of its branches from late spring to autumn, and the compact Bobo Hydrangea, a prolific bloomer.
“Seven Son Flower is also great,” Gruber said. “This is a small picturesque tree or large shrub that blooms in the fall and it’s great for pollinators."