Time to start enjoying those fall colors
| September 3, 2023 1:00 AM
Can you believe it's September already? The signs are everywhere. You drive down the street and there they are. Trees and shrubs beginning to sport their autumn colors of red, yellow, orange and rust. They are pretty, no doubt about it, but wouldn't they be just as pretty if they'd waited a while?
Oh well, as long as the season has begun, we might as well jump on the bandwagon and enjoy it. Go out and look around your yard to see if you have enough fall-blooming perennials. Most of us have a few, but not many. All you have to do is head on over to the closest nursery. They have potted chrysanthemums by the acre right now. Asters are also terrific. Both mums and asters come in a wide variety of colors. By the way, don't use that florist mum you got from Aunt Sophie when you threw your back out. They aren't hardy here and seldom make it through the winter. Be safe and get some from one of the local plant nurseries. These will be hardly perennials you'll enjoy for years to come.
Before you go plant shopping, take a few minutes to walk around your yard and look at your summer containers. Have they started to look tired? They've been blooming for months now, so no wonder. While you're at the nursery, you might want to pick up a few hardy flowering plants for your pots. When you get home, pull out those tired summer annuals and replace them with small mums, asters, pansies, violas, kale, (also known as flowering cabbage) and maybe one of the tall grasses. If you're lucky, some of your container plants still look good. Leave those and just pull out the sickly-looking ones. Those hardy plants you brought home will perk up those containers and look good up until the first hard frost. Usually, that's in October around here. Of course, I'm talking about a “normal” year. We all know that's not what we've had so far.
It's also time to start buying your fall bulbs. The nurseries are getting them in about now. If they don't have what you want, use mail order. There are numerous bulb catalogs with gorgeous pictures to drool over. Pick up any plant magazine and the back pages will be filled with names and addresses of bulb companies. You can also go online and search for bulb catalogs. You should get lots of hits. Most of them are tickled pink to mail you a free catalog.
Bulbs that do well here are tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, alliums and many more. Most of these will need to be planted in early October. This gives them time to grow their roots and get ready to put on a show for you in the spring. Most like a lot of sun, good drainage and some bulb food dug into the soil before planting. They usually like to be planted about three times as deep as the bulb is tall.
I hate to say it, but soon we'll have to bring those tender plants back inside that we put out on the patio for the summer. Keep an eye on the weather reports. When you hear it's going to get down around 40, it's time. If you have any tropical plants, they suffer when they get under 50. Either bring the whole pot inside or take cuttings. I've tried both ways and have decided the cuttings work better. In the case of coleus, for instance, cuttings root very quickly. These can get potted up and put in a window until next spring. The mother plants can come in, but they usually suffer from the change in growing conditions. They've been out in strong light, (even in the shade) all summer. Suddenly, they're moved into darker conditions with warm, dry air. Their response is to drop most of their leaves and sulk. Cuttings don't go through this and adjust to the new conditions as they grow roots.
When you think about it, gardeners are like farmers, just on a smaller scale. Farmers have long been thought of as the eternal optimists, always hoping that next year will be better. I know I've already got some ideas I want to try next spring/summer. Bet you do too. But right now, let's just enjoy this beautiful weather and the great colors. Just don't think too far ahead!
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Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting as a kid in 4-H. Since then, she has always kept a garden of some sort, growing everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and house plants. She has belonged to garden clubs in three different states and is currently an active member of the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. This column was originally published in September 2013.