We had great rains during the last week of September and now that October is here it is time to begin some fall planting of ornamentals. Chrysanthemums seem to be for sale all over town. Some pots of them along with pumpkins from one of many sources will brighten up your entry or patio.
When the chrysanthemums have spent their blooms, don’t trash the plants. Find a sheltered place in your flower bed to plant them, maybe only until spring, and mulch them to protect against extreme cold. It is recommended that you don’t cut back the dead foliage until next spring. At that time you can decide if you want to leave them there or move them to another plot in your yard. I have had experience with one planting of chrysanthemums that bloom in the spring and the fall that were originally planted over twenty-five years ago in the University Baptist Church courtyard raised bed. The plants that are shaded from the west sun thrive better. After they complete their spring bloom, they are pruned back and fertilized. This gets them ready for their fall show of color.
Pansies planted this fall will usually develop good root systems and be pretty now and especially next spring. A tip from Lisa Hair, OBU groundskeeper, is to incorporate a large amount of slow release fertilizer (the pellet variety) in the ground when you plant the pansies, using perhaps two or three times the amount you might normally add. This will get your plants off to a great start in the fall and they will be much larger next spring.
Ornamental cabbage and flowering Kale can add color to your yard. I have had mixed results with these. Some years they do extremely well in the fall and into the winter and other years many don’t survive. Of the kale planted in the large pots on Bell last fall, most didn’t make it past December but two on the north side of pots not only survived the winter but are still growing today. We have had similar experiences at the OSU demonstration garden in a raised bed. One year the plant was spectacular all winter! I think that it worth the cost of the plants to buy them, enjoy them in the fall and then see what happens this winter.
If your cabbage or kale does get damaged this winter, consider cutting it back to about one inch tall. Also you might score the top with an X. It is possible that this will result in multiple heads growing from that stem in the early spring. I saw this idea demonstrated by Steve Owens when he was host of the Oklahoma Gardening television show. I have tried it and most times have had success. The Kale shown in the photograph may be a result of that procedure a few years ago.
Fall is also a good time to plant container grown trees. Those planted in October and kept watered as needed should develop good roots prior to extreme cold and should do well when spring arrives.
Best wishes for a great fall planting season.