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Here in coastal North Carolina, and especially Wilmington, fall planting doesn’t really evoke the same images of gardening that springtime does.


We tend to think of the season of flora and fauna as “behind us” and we sit a pot of mums beside a pumpkin and wait for the holidays. In the winter, we just day dream about the Azaleas that spring will bring us. Everyone seems to know mums and pansies are the flowers of fall, but what about other options?

We know about fall harvests, but what do most of us really know about fall planting and preparations for winter?

It’s easier to list what NOT to plant this time of year than it is to provide a list of what you should plant. The easiest thing to remember is to remember where you are. Tropical plants, like banana trees, avocado trees, gingers and hibiscus type flowers need to be planted in warm weather. Almost everything else … fair game.

If you want blooms next spring, now’s your time to get out the shovel.

Flowering plants:

  1. Daisies
  2. Sweet Alyssum
  3. Iceland Poppy
  4. larkspur
  5. phlox
  6. sweet pea,
  7. all your ornamental cabbages

It’s also time to plant bulbs that flower in the spring.

Your veggies that do best planted in Autumn include:

  1. beet
  2. bok choy
  3. broccoli
  4. Brussels sprouts
  5. carrot
  6. cabbage
  7. cauliflower
  8. celery
  9. endive
  10. garlic
  11. kale
  12. kohlrabi
  13. leek
  14. head and leaf lettuce
  15. mesclun mixes
  16. onion
  17. pea
  18. radish
  19. spinach
  20. snow peas
  21. Swiss chard
  22. turnip

You’ll want to grow these from small plants or seed. Be sure to plant Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower as small plants. It’s important that they go in the ground a bit deeper because it will help their stability as they mature.

Information about planting trees is varied. It’s highly subject to the region and the life cycle of the tree. In the southeast, as a rule, we have a bit longer into winter than is recommended in colder climates. Extreme heat can stress a tree and we’re often prone to droughts in this region. The rule of thumb is dormancy. You want to plant or transplant when the tree is not producing food. You can plant nearly any tree in the fall. Visit the Arbor Day Foundation for numerous guides on planting trees.

The Southeast has cantankerous weather this time of year. You might need your hoodie all day on a Tuesday but by Thursday you could be cursing the seemingly misguided logic behind the closing the pool after Labor day. It’s for this reason that you must keep watering.

Get your winter composting ready, leaves will fall before you know it and you’ll want to have everything in order. Remember, your friends at American Property Experts now have a soil amendment to help you accelerate your composting progress.

Finally, once your planting is done and October is starting to give way to November, make sure mulch is down. In fact, if you have fruit trees, you can protect them earlier. Recycled Mulch from APE is organic and rich with nutrients.

A wonderful local resource for information and classes are the Master Gardeners at the Cooperative Extension and Arboretum at 6206 Oleander Drive, in Wilmington. Ilene, a volunteer master gardener and her colleagues at the Arboretum offered the suggestion to also consider planting ornamental and native grasses this time of year. Ilene expressed that the Arboretum has a display of native grasses, trees and shrubs as well as brochures and pamphlets with specific information about planting for the immediate area. You can reach the Master Gardeners at the Plant Clinic by calling 910-798-7679 or emailing . Classes for those interested in becoming Master Gardeners will be held in February and March.