As cooler weather approaches, flower and vegetable gardens can provide a lot of pleasure well into autumn if you tend your plants carefully.
In perennial beds, protect plants from frost by cutting stems to the ground and shoveling about an inch of compost right over the tops. After removing withered annual flowers or vegetable plants, guard remaining healthy annuals with floating row covers, blankets or plastic sheets. Remember to insulate plants in the late afternoon, then remove the covers in the morning once the temperature warms. Often the first frost will be followed by several weeks of mild weather, so it’s worth the effort to help your plants survive that first cold night.
Many vegetable plants, such as parsley, kale, leeks and broccoli, and flowers such as snapdragons and mums, tolerate cold weather and won’t need protecting. They will continue to produce food and flowers until early winter.
Autumn also is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs because cool temperatures and abundant rain allow roots to become well established before winter. Many nurseries offer deep discounts to clean out their stock, so bargains abound. Since sales can be tempting, be sure to select the right plants for your location and growing conditions.