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Secrets of Fall Gardening

Maybe it’s just the lengthening days and warming weather, but there’s always something about spring that makes you want to get outside and work in the dirt. Plant a vegetable garden, tend to some flowers, re-seed the lawn, or maybe try your hand at some container gardening. The flush of foliage from 2017 may be on the wane, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done in the garden.

In fact, fall is a great time to grow something more interesting than tomatoes and marigolds. On the herb front, Simon & Garfunkel would be proud if you planted some cool-weather-loving parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme, either in an herb garden bed, a few pots on the patio or even a container in the window.

On the vegetable front, have you ever considered trying your hand at green beans, beets or broccoli? Or how about parsnips, peas or pumpkins? These hearty veggies are perfect as we gear up for Thanksgiving next month, or in a nice stew or pie—something to put a little meat on your bones and keep you warm against winter’s chill.

Across our communities at Bethesda, we have a number of residents who enjoy light gardening on their private patios and windows, as well as a couple of community gardens for residents interested in a more formal gardening club. For our residents and anyone else interested in fall gardening, here are a few tips to get the most out of it this season:

1. Take note of the sunlight requirements. “Full sun” plants thrive in the spring and summer because of the long days and seemingly endless sunshine, but by October, sunlight can be scarce. Unless you live in the Sunny South, consider looking for plants that will do better with limited sunlight.

2. Know your plant hardiness zone. This map at the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help you determine what plants will thrive in your area, which in turn gives you insight into what to plant and when. Regardless of the season, concentrate your gardening efforts on plants suitable for your zone.

3. Protect your plants. Some of your perennials from the summer may be able to survive the winter with a little care. You may be able to bring your patio plant indoors (be sure to wash the leaves, and keep the plants near a window for sunlight). Herbs may be transplanted into pots. A little care now may keep your perennials thriving into 2018.

4. Sow the seeds and bulbs for early spring. Spinach, cabbage, peas and Swiss Chard, for example, can be planted in late fall or early winter and will give you fresh veggies in the early spring, when your spring and summer plants are still germinating.

5. Get ready for spring. Even if you don’t want to grow plants for the winter, there’s still much to be done to get your garden ready for next year. Start by clearing out old annuals such as tomato vines. Then leave a few fall leaves on the ground to help add some nutrients for the spring.