Gardening: Fall Annuals & Leafy Greens

Cary, NC – Every year is different, but by the beginning of September, it’s time to get started with Fall planting. This year, I recommend starting with some annual flowers and some leafy greens.

Fall Gardening, Part One

The early Autumn is the time to plant annual flowers like Pansies, Violets and Mums. It’s also the right time to get in a Fall crop of vegetables.

Later in the season, I’ll talk about planting perennial shrubs, trees and flowers in Fall Gardening, Part Two.

Fall Annuals

For me, Fall annuals are flowers that bloom now and over-winter into Spring. Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Pansies and Violets cut a wide swath.

During warm weather (like early Autumn and late Spring), Pansies and Violas need a little shade. From late Autumn through early Spring, they can tolerate full sun. If you have them in pots, you can move them around the garden. If not, plant them under deciduous trees or near taller plants that die back in Winter.

Bi-colored pansies.

Yellow pansies with a flying visitor.

Mums are not generally a plant that over-winters and blooms again in the Spring. But they are a Fall favorite for showy color and vigorous bloom. The Mums in garden stores now are just beginning to bloom and covered with buds ready to open.

Mums setting up to bloom.

Asters are also not an annual. They will return year after year in a garden bed. Many varieties are in full bloom right now.

White asters.

Fall Vegetables for the Kitchen Garden

Early Fall is also the time to plant leafy greens including lettuce, Brussel sprouts, kale, bok choy, cabbage, collards and many others. I’m a particular fan of home grown lettuce – much tastier than store-bought. You can grow lettuce in a medium-sized pot in a sunny spot and pick off salad greens for weeks. This year at the garden store, I saw lots of varieties including Romaine, Simpson, Great Lakes (a head lettuce) and Red Oak Leaf.

This lettuce variety is called Great Lakes and can produce a compact head.

If you have room in a sunny bed, cauliflower makes a nice kitchen crop.

Bok choy is easy to grow and delicious in stir-fries and soups.

Mustard greens tolerate cold weather and are perfect sauteed or steamed.

Arugula is a nice addition to a leafy salad. Unlike lettuce, collards and bok choy, it’s a perennial, meaning it can come back year after year.

Don’t forget your spinach. This variety (Avon) matures in about 44 days.


Story and pictures by Hal Goodtree. The Gardening column on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.

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