Guest column: Starting fall plantings on the right foot
Fall is officially here (YAY), and hopefully, cooler rainier weather is on the way to stay. There are some great things to plant for fall color and some that perform better if planted in the fall instead of spring.
BULBS: Spring flowering bulbs should be planted in the fall. They need the time over winter to put down roots before they spring into bloom next year. Bulbs in Oklahoma are best planted between Halloween and Thanksgiving each year. You can keep them in the refrigerator until planting time and get the beds ready by adding compost to improve the soil and drainage. Bulbs will rot in waterlogged, heavy clay soil. Raised beds with compost added will remedy this situation. Daffodils, tulips, alliums, crocus, and other major bulbs all perform well in Oklahoma. Most standard Dutch hyacinths won't reach their full potential if winters are too mild. Good hyacinths for Oklahoma are Roman blue and Roman pink hyacinths because they don't require extremely cold winters and will multiply in southern gardens.
TREES AND SHRUBS: Fall is a wonderful time to plant most trees and shrubs in Oklahoma because it gives them time to establish roots and become acclimatized before next year's hot summer. Be sure to plant trees and shrubs away from septic and electrical lines, dig a wide hole instead of a deep hole, and mulch well.
ASTERS AND MUMS: For fall color that continues until after the first frost or two, asters and mums are inexpensive and plentiful this time of year. Choose plants with lots of buds or blooms that are just beginning to open if you want flowers in your yard instead of the nursery. Garden mums will overwinter in Oklahoma, so cut them back a few times to keep them from becoming too tall and leggy and flopping over with the weight of the blooms. Also, consider planting native asters like the Willowleaf Aster that can take the Oklahoma heat, drought, and wind.
VIOLAS AND PANSIES: If violas and their larger flowered cousins, pansies are planted in autumn; they will look beautiful in fall and then rebound with extra energy in spring. They make a lovely carpet for all of the spring-flowering bulbs, too. Don't forget to water them all winter if it doesn't rain. Violas may have smaller blooms, but there are so many they make up for lack of size and they flower better in colder temperatures. They are also not as affected by wind and drought.
VEGETABLES: There are some vegetables such as mustard, kale, and Swiss chard that are not only edible but also beautiful in the fall. 'Bright Lights' is an especially attractive Swiss chard with hot pink and bright yellow stems.
FALL DECORATING: Mums and ornamental kales and cabbages are always good container plantings for fall. Also try ornamental peppers, native sunflowers, Golden Rods, Celosias, and ornamental grasses. Take a nature walk and collect wildflowers, grasses, acorns, twigs, and grapevines to go with the usual pumpkins, gourds, and corn stalks to make your outdoor decorating interesting as well as beautiful. Happy Fall Gardening!