Here are five plants that you can put in the ground during the next several weeks, to add flavor and color to the dreariest fall and winter days:
1. Pansies and chrysanthemums. The most popular and colorful flowering fall plants, pansies and mums can be potted or planted in the ground, and they withstand harsh winter temperatures only to flower again in the spring. “Sky” and “Delta” series pansies are the hardiest, and all mums can tolerate the cold, as long as you water them frequently so their roots don’t dry out.
2. Wood spurge. Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’) belongs to a group of plants that tolerate cold weather and keep their foliage all winter. Many Fall Magic plants are perennials and can bloom in temperatures as cold as 20 degree F. Depending on the time of year, wood spurge’s colors can range from red to purple to green, even black. These plants start appearing in nurseries around September, along with other Fall Magic plants like the curiously speckled yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ‘Herman’s Pride’).
3. Lettuce and spinach. Both of these leafy greens are great crops to put in your garden now because they thrive in the cooler temperatures and shorter days of fall. Lettuce germinates best in temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees F, and grows best when the thermometer dips into the 40s. Mature plants will continue to grow in temps as cold as 25 degrees. Spinach, planted in mid-August, will produce leaves well into October.
4. Fall beans. Most people associate beans, especially green beans, with summer harvests, but Tendercrop, Contender, Top Crop, and Early Bush Italian beans—any of the snap beans—can be planted if you still have two more months of frost-free weather. They can withstand temperatures down to 30 degrees F when they’re producing and, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, are best planted between the last week of July and first week of August if you live in warmer climates.
5. Cole crops. “Cole” refers to members of the Cruciferae or mustard family, and includes things like brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, and turnips. It may be too late to plant these crops in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but it’s the perfect time of year for Southerners and gardeners in the Southwest to plant them, as they grow best when temperatures are in the 60 to 65 degree F range.