Fabulous Fall Gardens

Trisha Shirey, Director of Flora & Fauna - 13th September 2013

Finally, cooler weather is here and it is time to plant for fall. The fall garden season is one of the most rewarding for us. Cooler temperatures, more frequent rainfall and fewer insect pests make it easier for gardeners to be successful. The variety of plants that we can grow makes the fall garden very worthwhile.

Lettuce in all its shapes, forms and colors is one of the stars of the fall garden. Sweet Buttercrunch lettuce is always a favorite of our guests. Merlot, Red Sails and Lolla Rossa provide bright pops of red in the salad bowl. (I have found that red lettuce tends to be the least tolerant of hot weather so I plant those a bit later in the fall season.) Tango, Salad Bowl and Endive add some curly texture to the salad mix and arugula, sorrel and Mizuna mustard add a spicy zip to salads. We usually have 15 to 18 different types of lettuce included in the salad mix.

Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden yet, consider adding some of these brilliantly colored and textured plants to your container gardens. Lettuce will live quite happily alongside your winter annual color like pansies, violas, snapdragons and calendula. It even has similar water and fertility requirements. If temperatures will be lower than 30 degrees, cover the pot with a plant row cover, a sheet or one of the new Planket covers that are an attractive green color.

Graffiti CauliflowerBroccoli and cauliflower are also easy to grow although, if space is limited, broccoli will be a more productive choice. That is because broccoli will keep producing smaller florets long after the main crown is harvested. The leaves of both vegetables are edible also. Cauliflower comes in a lovely purple called “Graffiti” and bright orange “Cheddar”. My favorite is the pyramid shaped and chartreuse “Romanesco.” They are almost too pretty to eat!

Kale is the nutrition star of the winter garden and the bumpy textured blue green leaves of the Dinosaur or Tuscan kale is our chef’s favorite. This attractive kale will grow to 3 feet tall and is a nice addition to our container gardens. We always include Winterbor, Vates, Redbor and Red Russian kale in the garden also. If you’ve had the delicious Kale Caesar salad from the winter menu, you’ll understand why we plant so much kale.

Fall is the perfect time to plant herbs like cilantro, dill, chervil, curled and Italian parsley. These herbs thrive in the cooler conditions in fall.

Fall does not mean the end of the garden season in the South. It is the best time to have a garden!