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Fall planting, garden maintenance is upon us as weather takes a turn for the cool

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 2, 2015

 Late summer and fall are good times to enjoy hardy mums or cold-weather vegetables. Gardeners also can plant perennial bulbs that will bloom in the spring.

Late summer and fall are good times to enjoy hardy mums or cold-weather vegetables. Gardeners also can plant perennial bulbs that will bloom in the spring.

Photo by Brian Louwers


WARREN — It seems like only yesterday that we were worried about protecting our tender tomato plants from frost, thinning rows of lettuce and carrots, and getting our annuals in the ground before Memorial Day. 

But alas, the days are growing shorter and the nights are getting cooler as the calendar flips from August to September. For some, that means it’s time to plant again. For others, it’s time to maintain.

Whether you’re into flowers, vegetables or your lawn, there’s still plenty to do as the Northern Hemisphere begins to tilt away from the sun.

“Some of the cold-season crops could be planted now; things like lettuce, radish, spinach and Swiss chard would be good choices, but check the days to maturity,” said Mary Gerstenberger, a horticulture educator with the Michigan State University Extension in Macomb County.

Gerstenberger said baby varieties of Swiss chard, for example, produce leaves that are ready to be picked in as few as 25-30 days after planting, whereas full-size varietes take twice that long.

If row covers are used, she said other cold-tolerant crops that take longer to mature — kale, kohlrabi, beets and turnips — could be planted for a late-season harvest.

Gerstenberger said October also is the time to plant garlic for harvest next summer, in July or August.

Beyond vegetables, late summer and fall are the times to invest a little money and effort to make your yard explode with color when spring comes around again.

“All the things that bloom in the early spring are planted in the fall: tulip bulbs, hyacinths, daffodils,” said Cindy Roback, whose family owns and operates Young’s Garden Mart & Christmas Fantasy on Ryan, north of 11 Mile Road, in Warren.

Roback said the store soon will stock cool-weather pansies. Mums already are starting to arrive.

Hardy mums bloom throughout the fall in beautiful seasonal colors and overwinter in the ground as perennials.

“Keep it in the ground. It needs to go through that dormant period,” Roback said.

Even gardeners who are done planting this year will find tasks worth accomplishing as the season winds down.

Some growers spread manure or other fertilizer and cultivate the soil in preparation for next season. Roback recommended a good all-purpose “19-19-19” fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. 

“It’s also a good time to apply fall fertilizers for the lawn,” Roback said.