Forget spring, fall is the time to plant things

Published 6:28 pm Thursday, September 29, 2022

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Don’t you just love this time of the year?

Some would call it depressing, with leaves turning brown and falling off of the trees, with fresh vegetables becoming fewer and fewer, with flowers giving way to Mother Nature’s temperatures.

I disagree, and it has nothing to do with the pumpkin spice lattes and doughnuts that seem to sprout up around every corner.

Autumn makes me want to plant something.

But when?

That question is almost impossible to answer these days. Say what you want about the politicization of global warming, but the best time to plant those fall vegetables and flowers is getting later and later.

Grandpa used to plant his turnip patch – without fail – each year on on Picnic Day (For those of you who don’t remember, that is the second week of August.). I planted mine in the beginning of September, and already, the greens are ready to be cut. Be patient, because they need a little frost to lessen the bitterness of the leaves. I couldn’t imagine how big they would be had I planted them on picnic day. They would be on their way out way before any frost ever touched the leaves.

The same goes for seeding lawns, and planting perennials and winter veggies. They need to be planted before it gets too cold, but also after it gets too hot. Those days are unpredictable these days.

But as gardeners, we try.

I’ve planted radishes, lettuce, turnips, mixed greens, parsley, collards, broccoli, kale and chard. Most will last well into the colder months. I’ve knocked ice off of collards before, and they were still delicious.

Of course, it came with some tough decisions.

Because of the warm weather lasting longer into the fall, those summer loving plants are still thriving. I actually pulled the zinnias up while noone was watching. I couldn’t imagine what folks would think if they saw me pulling up beautiful flowers of all colors. After all, ours is the garden with something blooming at all times of the year – affectionately called The Calahaln Bootanical Garden.

Somewhere along the way, the zinnia became my favorite summer annual flower. I’ve seen them for sale in the garden centers as individual plants. I’ve even seen them sold at festivals for several dollars for one single plant. Yes, some plant lovers have more money than sense.

My love of the zinnia is because it’s cheap to buy the seeds, and all you have to do is clean the ground, loosen the soil a few inches deep, and scatter the seeds around. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll have little green sprouts shooting up from the ground. Within a couple of months, you’ll have blooms. And if you cut them, they will bloom even more. I’m a true believer that flowers ease tension. If you’re in an office where people come in upset from time to time (Such as a newspaper.), put an arrangement of flowers at the front desk for them to see when they first arrive. They may still be mad, but most people will be a bit calmer. Flowers have that effect.

But those zinnias are smack dab where the chard is going, where the garlic is going, where the kale is going. It has to go. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s kind of like a yard sale for the yard. The compost pile appreciates the old zinnias (If you have a clean space and don’t plant different things every season like I do, leave the zinnias to reseed, and you won’t even have to buy new seeds the next year.).

Yes, autumn is a great time of the year. A time for growth. A time for renewal.

Check back in the spring. I’ll write the same thing.

– Mike Barnhardt