North Carolinians are definitely feeling the chill in the air this week, as fall arrives in a timely fashion! Worried about your fall garden? Here are some good things to know.
Many of us really got into gardening during the pandemic and spent a lot of time and energy making our gardens lush and bountiful. Whether you grow a flower garden or your own vegetables, your hard work can be very rewarding.
Thankfully, the climate in North Carolina allows for an extended growing season, and so you can still grow several things well into the fall. Tomatoes, for instance, will still grow into October and November. Start canning (and pickling) your vegetables now, so that you can continue to reap the benefits of your efforts this winter.
Flowers, Veggies and Herbs
Some cool-season vegetables stay surprisingly hardy throughout the coldest months of the year. As nights get colder for your garden, you can preserve your veggies by covering them with a sheet or plastic overnight.
If you use plastic, you will want to remember to uncover them in the morning. If you don’t, they’ll get too warm during the heat of the day.
Some good vegetables to plant now include lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chards, collards, kohlrabi, carrots, brussel sprouts, garlic, onion, radishes, and turnips.
This is also a great time to plant perennial herbs including sage, chives, oregano, rosemary, and thyme in your fall garden. Be sure to plant these drought-tolerant plants in well-drained soil or raised beds, where they will get several hours of direct sunlight each day.
You should plant spring-blooming flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, and allium, in September or October when the soil temperatures have cooled. Be sure to cover them well with good mulch for protection. You will enjoy seeing them pop up as the first colorful sights of spring!
Don’t forget about your houseplants! If you took any of your houseplants outdoors this summer to enjoy on your porch, now is the time to bring them in as well.
When temps start dropping below 50 degrees at night, it’s time to keep them there. You’ll want to watch the temps, so you don’t shock your plants during the transition. Be sure to groom or trim off any leggy branches or dead leaves.
Also, check for insects, so that you don’t take any critters inside with you. Now is the time to re-pot if necessary, or refresh the soil and water with a deep soak. Pay attention to how much light your plant needs, and be sure to find an appropriate window for light. Houseplants provide a great deal of joy and beauty in the winter months when you can’t get outside to garden.
It also helps to check your hardiness zone for gardening at any time of the year. North Carolina holds five zones: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, and 8a. The areas that experience the lowest temperatures (Zones 6a and 6b) are in the western part of the state, as it has a significantly higher elevation than the coastline.
Mountain cities in these zones, like Asheville, will see higher occurrences of freezing and snow in the winter and have a slightly shorter growing season. Make sure to check your zone and the gardening prep you’d need.
Prepping Your Garden for Next Spring
If you’ve been gardening since March or April and want to take a few months off, there are still actions you can take to help your garden plot in the spring. You can “put your garden to sleep” by growing crops like annual rye or crimson clover. They will enrich the soil with nitrogen and require very little attention. Your garden will thank you for the extra nutrients come spring, when you return to it. Now is also a good time to turn compost into soil and clean and prep your beds so they will be ready for spring.
Fall is a great time for gardening in North Carolina, so don’t mourn the loss of your summer garden. Make sure to keep on growing!