WESTCHESTER, N.Y. — The hot and humid days of August are a good time to start planning a fall garden, say experts. Removing spent plants, sewing lettuces, and ordering spring bulbs are great ways to spend late summer.
Sabina Barach of the Croton Community Garden said members look forward to fall vegetables this time of year. "What we're doing around the middle of August is planting fall crops. So we're clearing away spent plants and then we're planting fall greens like lettuces, chard, kale, you can do another crop of beets," she said.
Many nurseries throw away small vegetables by August, but gardeners may be able to find seed packets on sale. Common greens, like lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, are considered easy to grow from seed and should be planted in mid-August to reach maturity for the cooler days of autumn.
Gardeners who pined after June's pricey perennials can find bargains beginning in mid-August. Nurseries and home improvement stores look to clear aisles for fall's most popular flower, chrysanthemums, and prices for perennials and woody plants are often reduced.
"Look for sales on woody plants. Sometimes the nurseries are looking to get rid of things for the winter. Make sure you're choosing a healthy plant, and water it in well," said Ana Snider, educator at Westchester County's Cornell Cooperative Extension.
"Cooler weather favors the development of roots, and roots are really what they need to get through the winter. So they're not going to focus on top growth and develop a lot of leaves," said Snider, about why fall is a good time to plant perennials.
"Start thinking about what bulbs you want to plant and order them. Do you want to grow tulips, daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops?" asked Dickey. "They come in September and October, which is the ideal time to plant them," she said.
"Mums" are usually treated as annuals. However, some varieties are hardy enough to come back year after year, like perennials. Westchester residents will find it easier to find a mum hardy enough to survive the winter, after the USDA revised the plant hardiness zone map in 2012. Notably, mums are not deer resistant.
The best way to guarantee success for any plot is simple preparation, said Kelly Fischetti, a Yorktown resident and Cornell Cooperative master gardener-in-training. "It's important, with any kind of garden, with any kind of planting, a shrub to a lettuce seed, you want to prepare the soil to get the best results."