Getting Philadelphia Gardens Ready for Fall and Winter
Fall should be a busy time for Philadelphia gardens. Not only can you get in one last round of crops before the first freeze, you also want to take the time to clean up the garden to get it ready for the winter.
Fall can and should be a busy time in Philadelphia gardens. Vegetable crops that perform well in the early days of spring also do well in the fall, as long as they are planted well in advance of the first frost in the area. Along with getting in one last round of planting before the winter hits, it’s also a good idea for Philadelphia homeowners to tidy up the garden before things get too cold, so that you don’t let diseased plants linger over the winter or give pests a place to rest for the season.
Make Your Last-Minute Plantings
Some vegetables can be planted in Philadelphia gardens up until early or mid-October and will be ready before the first freeze, which usually happens in early November. Lettuce, greens such as kale and chard, and radishes are all ideal for planting in the fall, as they grow quickly and perform well when the temperatures are cooler. You can also plant certain veggies, such as spinach, later in the fall, to enjoy before the freeze and then again once the outside world thaws in the spring.
Fall is also a great time to plant ornamentals that do well in cooler temperatures. If you don’t like eating kale, you can grow ornamental varieties for their looks. Ornamental kale plants can withstand freezing temperatures and will provide decoration through the chilly winter months in Philly.
Pansies are another plant that’s great for the fall garden. The name is deceptive, as pansies are actually pretty hardy little flowers that can survive the winter in Philly, giving your garden a burst of color through the winter chill and into the spring. According to Mike McGrath, of WHYY’s You Bet Your Garden, pansies are more likely to make it through the winter months if planted in a spot that’s sunny during winter but shaded in the spring. When planting in the later fall, choose plants over seeds, so that you can enjoy the blooms this season and next.
Get a Jump on Bulbs
If you want to enjoy tulips and daffodils come the spring, the time to get them in your garden is actually in late October or early November, when the temperature has cooled off significantly but before things have frozen over. Adding some bulbs to your garden is a pretty hands-off way to guarantee some color early in the spring. Water the bulbs right after planting, then leave them be for the rest of winter, until the first leaves appear.
Once you’ve gotten your last round of plants and bulbs in the ground, it’s time to think about cleaning up the remains of your spring and summer garden. While it’s a good idea to leave some root vegetables, such as carrots and leeks, in the ground for a harvest later on, others should be pulled up. Tender plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, should be pulled out and either discarded or composted. Pull up any remaining weeds and rake leaves that have fallen, so that pests don’t have a place to hide over the winter.
You can trim some perennials, but many do better over the cold winter if left alone. Wait until spring to trim them back so that new growth can come in.
Philly might not offer the chance to garden for all four seasons, but you can make your garden last well into fall. Leaving out pansies, kale, and other cold-hardy plants all winter means your garden will retain some visual interest even when it’s freezing outside.
Image source: Flickr/Jim Linwood