Add color and scent to your garden now
Written by Jackye S. Meinecke
What joy to be able to spend time outdoors again! Because of the rains, September and October are the desert spring. Many gardeners go wild with spring fever in April, buying and planting blooming flowers. However, few of these spring flowers continue to bloom into fall—and may not even survive our summer. Turns out fall is our best time to plant most trees, shrubs, and perennials.
We should sow seeds and plant bulbs now for spring blooms. We can start a winter vegetable garden to provide herbs and greens over the next months. While we are out and about in the garden, we can accomplish some garden maintenance, such as deadheading, fertilizing, and irrigating between rains. Don’t forget to plan for feeding the hummingbirds now and in the spring.
This month, soil is moist and warm, so new plants will settle in quickly. Southwest winters are usually mild, so most plants continue to develop roots all winter, giving them a strong start in spring.
What to Plant:
Some plants look glorious in the fall, such as yellow Maximilian sunflowers, orange Mexican Fire Anisacanthus, purple Mexican sage and Vermillion Bluffs sage, yellow shrubby senna, and red or yellow bird of paradise. Add Texas Ranger sages to the garden anytime, so you will have their wonderful herbal scent and orchid to lavender blooms throughout the year. Seek out any of these plants to put in the garden now, so next fall is vibrant with the brilliant colors. Plant winter herbs and greens in a garden bed, raised bed or several pots. Find seeds or seedlings of green and red lettuces, rainbow colors of chard, and the dark greens of kale, collard greens, and mustard at local nurseries. Establish an herb bed planted with parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro for their fresh aromas, colorful flowers, and to season winter stews and sauces. Most of these herbs are perennials, so by spring they will be well established, and you will have a permanent herb garden for cooking.
In addition to creating and adding to our gardens, September and October are an excellent time to do some garden maintenance.
Apply mild fertilizer on the vegetable and flowerbeds to encourage root development through winter. Fertilize the lawn, shrubs and fruit and flowering trees. In fact, fall is a good time to add some fertilizer to most things. Choose a fertilizer in which the middle number on the label is the same as or larger than the first number on the label. The first number represents nitrogen, which encourages fast, but tender, growth. What we want at this time of year is more fruit and flowers. The middle number, represents phosphorus, which improves the production of fruits, flowers, and roots.
Hummingbirds actively battle each other for food at this time of year. They are putting on the extra weight they need for their fall migration. These tiny, tough birds will depart when the time is right. In the meantime, we need to keep our feeders filled with fresh syrup to give them the energy they need for travel.
In fact, all the birds are active in the garden as the cool nights and shorter days warn them of the seasonal changes. Every giant sunflower in the garden has a couple of lesser gold finches or some red finches feeding on it.
To invite the birds back next spring, plant spring blooming perennials, such as penstemons, autumn/cherry sage, verbena, lantana, and red or yellow bird of paradise.
Gardeners have weeks to add plants to their gardens for fall and spring blooms, textures and aromas; prepare for the winter months; and enjoy the birds and other garden visitors. Take advantage of the most beneficial season for adding to the garden—then relax and admire your creation.