I’m pretty excited for October in the garden! This is the second-busiest time for plant growth and flowering at my house. (April and May are unrivaled in that area.) So many plants are putting on a show right now. Toad lilies are in bloom, bringing a tropical flair to my temperate garden. Ornamental grasses are at peak. Mexican Sage and Swamp Sunflowers are starting to show color after an entire summer of growing. My sweet little native asters are also bursting into bloom. Here are some ways I’m spending the month getting the most out of my garden.

Planting Cool-Weather Annuals
You can grow cool-weather annuals from seeds or transplants, but if you hope to direct-sow seeds for a winter and spring display, the time to do that is now. Most annuals seeds need the soil to be just a bit warm in order to sprout. In our area, the best fall and winter flowers include alyssum, snap dragons, violas, pansies, calendula, and dianthus.

Alyssum is a must have for cool weather flowerbeds.

In our area snapdragons will grow all winter.

Getting Creative with Fall Color
The long, warm fall days and barely cool fall nights give us more time to play in the garden and a wider plant palette than our friends up north, but we do end up making some sacrifices in our landscapes, namely, fall color. We just don’t get the cold snaps that result in brilliant red maple foliage or multi-colored sweet gum leaves. Sometimes it doesn’t look like fall in the landscape until we’re putting up Christmas trees. That means we have to be creative and plant the few trees and shrubs that do offer reliable fall color, and incorporate other plants with orange, red, and yellow leaves, fruits, and flowers. If you have space, plant blueberries—they are a three-season shrub with spring flowers, summer fruits, and great red fall color. Flowering dogwoods always have brilliant red foliage in fall, regardless of how warm it is. Of all plants, I like to incorporate crotons in fall containers. Their multi-colored leaves make good stand-ins for traditional northern hardwood counterparts—at least in terms of color.

Ornamental peppers are a perfect source for fall color in warmer climates.

A container garden filled with fall-blooming perennials and annuals adds ambience.

Planting Fall & Winter Vegetables
It is definitely not too late to plant fall and winter vegetables. You might want to grow and harden off some transplants of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage to set out in the garden. Direct-sow (plant seeds straight into the garden) kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, Swiss chard, turnips, parsnips and radishes. You’ll enjoy fresh produce from your garden all winter long!

Plant up a salad bowl.

Swiss Chard does double-duty in the garden.