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Fall into some new habits to extend your growing season

by Anne Lundgren, All About Lawns Columnist

Many of us think of springtime as the best time for gardening. And typically it is. If you live somewhere with four seasons, you've been cooped up for months, Pinteresting about tips requiring an eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, you're certainly ready to till up some soil and make plants grow.

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But with some effort and know-how, autumn can most definitely be the new spring. Or at the very least you don't have to spend the entire fall hacking down unruly tomato plants, untangling squash jungles, and pawning off your zucchini harvest on unsuspecting urbanites.

Knowing your zone is a good place to start when deciding what you can plant in the fall. Not sure about your growing season? The USDA Zone Finder is a helpful tool. Simply enter your zip code and get a general idea when you can expect a typical frost and what plants you should plant and when. Sproutrobot.com can also help you decide when to plant what and is self-explanatory and user-friendly.

A bountiful fall harvest: getting the most out of your growing season

Generally, keep an eye out for seed packets indicating a seed-to-table growing season of 40 days of less. Spinach, mustard, arugula, turnips, radishes, and Asian greens such as tatsoi and mizuna are good options. Spinach and kale are some of the hardiest of fall harvest vegetables. And when shopping for seeds -- or perusing the seeds you have left from your spring planting extravaganza -- look for plants with the quickest growing seasons, particularly beets, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, radish, and cauliflower. Also, planting in the heat of the summer can help jumpstart vegetables that mature better in milder fall temperatures. Think of it as spring in reverse. Those plants that did well in the cool spring months but waned in the heat? Well, they have a second chance in the fall.

Keep it contained: making your entertainment areas look their best

Container gardening can also help with the transition from summer to fall. Because gardening isn't just about having a bountiful harvest. Sometimes, it's about having good curb appeal. And we don't all want to carve jack-o-lanterns. Container gardening takes on a whole new meaning in the autumn months. And according to a recent Baltimore Sun article, mums aren't the only flower you can enjoy in the fall, though they tend to bloom late and you can choose from an array of colors, including white, russet, rose, gold, bronze, and purple, to name a few. Also good to note, mums grow as perennials in Zone 6 or warmer. Other options include heuchera, also known as coral bells.

Succulents and edibles such as sage, parsley and mini peppers can add a pop of lushness in containers as well. And when you consider what type of container to use, don't think you have to stick with the traditional pot. You can hollow out pumpkins and gourds and fill them with pops of colorful flora for a unique look on your porch, patio, or veranda.

Year after year: perennials keep you motivated

Also be on the lookout for late blooming perennials, such as Silver Lace Vine, a relatively hardy vine that tends to bloom in the late summer and well into fall when many perennials have begun their change from flourishing to dormant. I find that having a few shrubs and trees requiring minimal care that provide maximum aesthetics throughout the seasons encourages me to keep the rest of the yard and outdoor entertainment areas looking their best.

Herbs can also up the ante in the fall. You could consider most of them weeds because of their hardiness, but because of their usefulness, you shouldn't. One late bloomer to consider is pineapple sage, as the bright red blossoms in the fall liven up herb gardens. Chives prove to be durable as well, as does rosemary, marjoram, and sage. Quite honestly, herbs are my favorite part of gardening. Basically, they're weeds with a purpose. And we all know weeds grow, well, like weeds.

Falling into a routine: beauty is in the eye of the beholder

While many of us consider fall the time to lag on yard work until the last leaf has fallen from the biggest tree, you can still push your enjoyment of the growing season to the utmost. This also gives you the upper hand in keeping up with Jones's. Plus you get to admire your hard work for a few extra months when you dabble at fall gardening projects.

About the Author

Long before earning a bachelor's degree in Communication/English from Boise State University, Anne Lundgren fell in love with the English language. She has over 15 years of experience in the construction industry, and writes and edits novels and Internet content. When time allows, Anne does home improvement projects, hikes with her two dogs, and gets creative with art, food, and gardening.

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