Margaret Boyles for The Old Farmer’s Almanac on planning for a vegetable garden in the Spring.


Perhaps you’ve been eyeing beautiful vegetables all summer long at farm stands. Maybe you have a patch of lawn or weeds in a sunny backyard. Fall is a great time to start a new garden area for spring—without having to dig up the grass. So, if you’ve started thinking, “Hey, what about that garden next spring?,” here is some advice!

If you’ve long dreamed about having a small food garden, the fall is a great time to start thinking about it.

Small is beautiful
Every crop you decide to grow has specific requirements for space, sunlight, water, nutrition, and frost-free days to maturity. Every crop may encounter a variety of insect and mammal pests, as well as plant diseases that may attack roots, foliage, flowers, fruit—or the entire plant.

That’s why it’s important for new gardeners to learn as much as possible in advance, consult experienced gardeners, and start small, with a few easy-to-grow crops that are likely to succeed.

Some examples of easy-to-grow crops: green beans, summer squash/zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and perhaps some other salad greens. Here’s a great article on the best vegetables for a beginner’s garden.

Build on your successes by moving onto the more exotic crops another year.

Prepare your planting area
If you’re starting from scratch—a lawn or a patch of weeds—begin creating that garden space now. Fall is a great time to start a new garden area for spring (without having to dig up the grass).

Choose a spot that receives full sun most or all of the day. Start by mowing or weed-whacking the grass and weeds in the area of your planting bed.

The easiest (and most expensive) way to begin gardening: a raised bed or two. Although there are hundreds of commercial designs and DIY plans available, you don’t need an elaborate construction, just an enclosure that will hold about eight inches or more of soil. (Don’t use pressure-treated or painted wood or old railroad ties.)

Then arrange your materials or construct the bed(s) to enclose the planting area you’ve chosen, and spread a thick layer of newspaper over the mowed planting area. You can wait until spring to create and add soil to your bed.

If you’ll be planting directly into the ground, buy enough high quality compost to spread an inch or two deep over the entire mowed planting area. Then cover the compost layer with two or three layers of cardboard or old newspapers. Top off the paper with a thick layer of straw, hay, or leaves. Alternatively, (see photo) you may find an area livestock farm that will give you some cast-off sheets of the heavy plastic mulch used to cover their silage piles during the winter. Keep the plastic from blowing away by securing it with cement blocks, bricks, or large rocks.

Either mulch will exclude light to smother existing vegetation and prevent new weeds from growing, as well as allowing heat to build up to begin decomposing the old plant material and give you a clean planting bed next spring.

When you’re ready to plant in April or May, you can either cut holes through the plastic or paper mulch, or remove the mulch entirely. Either way, dig in your fertilizer and soil amendments, water well, and plant.

Begin imagining your garden
Order some seed catalogs, which will start arriving in late December, and begin dreaming. You could also consult with neighbors, friends, and family members about varieties that have done well for them.

As you browse seed catalogs or seed company web sites, pay attention to the different varieties of vegetables. Promising words in a variety description that may indicate a crop suitable for beginners: easy to grow, widely adaptableslow to bolthighly productivedisease/insect/drought resistantearly maturing, long harvest seasoncompact growth habit.

Unless you have a greenhouse or a good indoor grow-lighting system, note that some vegetables are started from small plants (not seed), including: tomato, pepper, and broccoli plants. Look for a local nursery outlet that’s grown their own plants, and can tell you about each variety—its growth habit, days to maturity, color, shape, and flavor of the mature crop.

Another excellent source of local gardening information: your county Cooperative Extension office. These branches of each state’s land-grant university system may have a toll-free information line, a long list of fact sheets on various gardening issues, or a series of workshops or mini-courses that offer hands-on training.

5 Easy Ways To Prepare All The Plants In Your Garden For Winter Weather

Viveka Neveln gives some good advice on preparing your garden for winter for Better Homes & Gardens.

Use these tips to help your perennials, trees, shrubs, and more survive the colder months. Your plants will come back stronger in the spring.

As temperatures drop in autumn, it’s time to get your garden ready for the winter. It may seem like not much is happening in your yard as the weather cools. However, there’s a lot going on in the soil until it freezes. This is especially true for newly planted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and hardy spring bulbs. All of these plants are busily growing roots to anchor themselves in the ground. And earthworms and soil microbes are also still at work, processing organic material into nutrients plants need. While nature has its own ways of coping with the colder months, there are a few things you can do to help prepare your plants for winter.

1. Mulch Your Perennials

Perennials return year after year, as long as they are hardy where you live. Hardy plants won’t require much effort from you to prepare them for winter. But if your area gets a lot of freezing and thawing through the season, watch out for frost heaving. This means the soil actually pushes plants out of the ground, especially new plants that don’t have a lot of roots  yet. To prevent this, add a 6-inch-thick layer of chopped leaves, straw, or other mulch around your perennials once the ground has frozen. This will help even out the soil temperature, especially if your area doesn’t always have snow covering the ground throughout winter.

Sometimes the plant’s own dead leaves help protect its crown and roots from the cold, so go ahead and leave them in place until next spring. Many perennials (such as sedums, purple coneflowers, and ornamental grasses) have forms that look pretty through winter. Plus, their seeds help feed birds and other wildlife. But if you prefer a tidier garden, it’s fine to cut your perennials to the ground after frost has withered their leaves. Just make sure to add a layer of mulch to help protect them.

2. Protect Annuals from Frost

Unlike perennials that return each year, annuals live only one season in the garden and can’t survive freezing temperatures. Some are known as cool-season annuals, meaning they prefer to grow and bloom when temperatures are cooler. These include ornamental kale, blue lobelia, and snapdragons. Warm-season annuals, on the other hand, like it hot. Zinnias, French marigolds, and impatiens fall into this category.

You can extend the life of both types of annuals by keeping old sheets or floating row covers ($12, The Home Depot) handy to cover them during light frosts. Continue to water annuals until freezing temperatures kill them. If your annuals are in containers, move them into a garage or other protected space when temperatures are forecast to dip into the 40s overnight. You can do this until daytime temperatures no longer rise above that threshold.

3. Dig Up Tender Bulbs

Fall is the time to plant hardy spring-blooming bulbs, but there are other types of plants known as tender bulbs. These include popular summer-bloomers like gladiolus, cannas, and dahlias. If you live where the ground freezes, these tropical plants won’t survive the winter. But, you can bring them indoors if you want to save these plants for another year.

Wait until after frost has turned the leaves brown, then gently dig up the bulbs or tubers. Cut away the leaves and brush off as much soil as possible. Avoid washing with water because the dampness can cause the bulbs to rot during storage. Let them dry out in the open n a cool spot for about a week. Label them so you’ll remember what they are. One trick is to write the name right on them with a permanent marker ($2, The Home Depot), as shown here with dahlia tubers. Then, pack them in a breathable container, such as a cardboard box. Cover them in sawdust or old newspapers so bulbs don’t touch, and place in a garage, basement, or other location that’ll stay below 45°F but not freeze.

4. Pamper Trees and Shrubs

Your trees and shrubs will have an easier time getting through winter if you make sure they are in good shape. For both evergreen and deciduous species, one of the most important things is to give them plenty of water before the ground freezes, especially if autumn has been dry. After the ground freezes, spread organic material such as chopped leaves up to 6 inches thick. This helps keep moisture in the soil (plants need water even during winter) and protect roots from freezing and thawing. Trim away any damaged or diseased limbs to prevent snow and wind from making these problems worse. For young evergreens in exposed locations, shield them from drying winter wind with burlap screens or shade cloth shelters.

5. Bundle Up Your Roses

Roses are so beautiful that it’s difficult to begrudge them the attention they require over the growing season. As cool weather brings on their dormant period, one final job remains for you: getting them ready for winter. Some types of roses are hardier than others, so it’s important to know which kinds you have. As a group, hybrid tea roses are the most vulnerable to winter cold and need the most preparation; the easiest roses to grow and care for are shrub roses. Make sure to give all your roses plenty of water before the ground freezes, but do not fertilize or cut them back. To protect the root balls from frost heaving, pile up extra soil around their base. In Zone 6 and colder, add a 6- to 12-inch layer of straw, leaves, or other mulch on top of the soil mound, secured with a circle of chicken wire.





Robin Sweetser gives some advice on how to avoid rodents in your flower bulbs for The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Are you tired of planting tulips and crocus bulbs only to have them disappear because mice and squirrels find them to be a tasty snack?

There are plenty of other bulbs that are less attractive to rodents and by planting early, mid-season, and late bloomers we can stretch the show into summer. Here are just a few, in order of their appearance in the garden:

  • Galanthus nivalis – Snowdrops are a welcome sight in spring.

‘Flore Pleno’ is a double-flowering variety that signals the end of winter, even if it has to push up through a covering of snow and ice to do it.

  • Eranthus hymenalis– Winter aconite is one of the earliest bulbs to bloom, sending up its ferny green leaves and bright yellow buttercup flowers just after the snowdrops are done.
  • Chionodoxa – Glory of the Snowgrows about 6 inches tall and has sprays of star-shaped blossoms in shades of pink, blue, lavender, or white.

Although it is considered a “minor” bulb, it gives maximum effort, forming large colorful drifts that are a sight to behold! Best of all, squirrels won’t touch it!

Its nodding checkered blossoms come in varying shades of purple and white.

  • Alliums are in the onion family and the sharp smell and flavor of their bulbs repels voles, chipmunks, and squirrels. There are many types to choose from ranging in size from  molywith its 10 inch tall clusters of yellow, star-like flowers to A. schubertii the 3 foot tall drumstick allium that looks like a purple fireworks explosion.
  • Camassia is native to marshy northwestern meadows. The tubers, called quamash by Native Americans, are edible when cooked. Lewis and Clark are reported to have dined on them during their exploration of the Pacific Northwest. Though we can eat the tubers, rodents are not attracted to them. If you have a soggy spot where other bulbs refuse to grow, give camassia a try. It is perfect for naturalizing along a stream or at pondside.
  • Scilla siberica – Wood Squill is very hardy and easy to grow. Their clustered, bell-shaped flowers are white or sky blue and lightly scented. Growing 4-6 inches tall, they make a stunning display when combined with early daffodils.
  • Narcissi – Daffodils are pest-resistant, reliable bloomers and there are so many different ones to choose from that you could easily devote your entire spring garden to them. For something unique try a multi-blooming variety like ‘Spring Cheer’ which has 15-20 small, fragrant, double blossoms per stem – an instant bouquet!
  • Fritillaria are cold hardy members of the lily family. The skunky odor of their bulbs repels rodents. Plants range in size from 3 foot tall ‘Crown Imperials’ to 6 inch tall  pudica. My favorite is F. meleagris the Guinea-hen flower.

In the lily family, it grows 24-32 inches tall bearing lavender flowers high above its long narrow leaves.

Before the ground gets too frozen to dig, pick some new spots for spring-flowering bulbs. After a long cold winter, you will certainly appreciate seeing their cheerful blossoms and early color. The best blooms of April and May need to be planted today!


Make Sure To Look Out For The Full Hunter’s Moon Later This Month

Jennifer Aldrich discusses Wednesday night’s Hunter Moon for Better Homes & Gardens.

Now that we’re well into October (yes, Halloween is just a couple of weeks away, so you better have your costume ready), there are a handful of items to check off on your fall bucket list. It just isn’t autumn without baking a few delicious apple desserts and carving jack-o’-lanterns with the family, but there’s another activity that’s kid-friendly and educational you should try. Plus, adults will enjoy it, too. On Wednesday, October 20, you’ll be able to see the Hunter’s Moon, the full moon of October.

The Hunter’s Full Moon will reach its peak brightness at 10:57 a.m. EST, according to the Farmers’ Almanac ($8, Amazon). Of course, you won’t be able to see the event during the day very well, so you’ll have to wait until sundown to get the full effect. Although the full moon won’t technically be at its peak, it will still be plenty big and bright for you to see.

Like the Harvest Moon, the full moon in September, the Hunter’s Moon isn’t tied to folklore, but the autumnal equinox, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac ($9, Amazon). It’s thought that the term Hunter’s Moon, also called the Sanguine or Blood Moon, comes from the fact that this period of the year is when it’s time to hunt for animals for the winter. Like all full moons, there are alternate options to call the celestial event. The Dakota call it the Drying Rice Moon, the Anishinaabe refer to it as the Falling Leaves Moon, the Ojibwe say it’s the Freezing Moon, the Haida call it the Ice Moon, and the Cree refer to it as the Migrating Moon.

To prepare for the event, make sure you have a telescope ready to go, such as the top-rated Gskyer Telescope ($90, originally $130, Amazon). (One 5-star reviewer writes, “Looking through the telescope in person is wayyyy more beautiful and so many more details that the camera just did not catch!”) If watching celestial happenings is on your must-do list, the Hunter’s Moon is one you won’t want to miss.



Robin Sweetser gives good tips on the best succulents to grow for The Old Farmer’s Almanac.


When the weather gets cold, the inside air can get desert-dry. That’s fine for the succulents. They are survivors. As long as they have a warm sunny spot they love the dry conditions. See top succulent plants for those home.

Succulents are not one plant family but a wide variety of plants from many families that have the ability to store water for long periods of time. You probably already grow many of them.


Cacti, aloe, sedum, kalanchoe, hens-and-chicks, and jade plant are all considered succulents. Some have thick leaves for storing water, those with no leaves store water in their stems, while others store water underground in their roots. Native to arid regions around the globe where often the only moisture they receive is in the form of dew, mist, or fog, they have evolved to withstand periods of drought.

As houseplants all they need is a place on a warm sunny windowsill and a bit of water—never more than once a week. Some need even less water in winter if they are dormant. You can go on vacation and not worry about them dying from neglect. They won’t miss you!

Since succulents are about 90% water, they can skip a few waterings with no ill effects. Soggy roots are deadly to them so clay pots are best. Use a fast draining potting soil like a mix specific for cacti or make your own from equal parts potting soil, sharp sand, and perlite. Many succulents have fibrous root systems and prefer a shallow pot to a deeper one.

Some of these plants are truly bizarre looking while others are quite beautiful. Succulents are a great starter plant for kids who appreciate their weird appearance.

Many succulents are readily available at your local greenhouse or garden center. The big box stores can’t even kill them!


Here are some more interesting succulents to look for:

  • Lithops give new meaning to the term “pet rock”. Often called living stones, they have 2 fat leaves that are fused together with a slight crack between them. In late summer a yellow or white daisy-like flower emerges from the crack. After blossoming the old leaves will die off and new ones will take their place.
  • Aloinopsis is another rock-like succulent with smooth, rounded leaves. Easy to grow, its flowers appear in late winter.
  • Faucaria gets its common name “tiger jaws” from the white spines along the edges of the leaves. It needs a dry period in winter but will reward you with yellow blossoms in the summer.
  • Echeveria is a large genus of plants, mostly hailing from Mexico. Their rosettes of fleshy leaves are similar to the hardy hens-and-chicks we grow outdoors. They offer a wide range of leaf colors from dusty gray to bright green, red, purple, pinkish, blue-green, and even black. They bloom in the summer.
  • Senecio is another large genus of plants but not all of them are succulents. One called blue fingers has long, pencil-shaped silvery leaves. Another called string of beads has tiny round leaves growing on long stems – perfect for a hanging basket.
  • Trichodiadema grows only 6 inches tall and looks like little bonsai tree. It has a thick above ground root with fleshy gray-green leaves on top and will produce magenta flowers in the spring and summer.

If you can’t decide which one to buy, get several and group them together in a dish garden or strawberry pot.



The Fall Colchicum

Martha Stewart talks about the beauty of the fall perennial Colchicum.

Wherever you live, I hope you’re able to enjoy the beautiful blooms of those fall perennials called Colchicum.

I love Colchicum and have grown them in my gardens for many years. Colchicum produces such cheerful colors when most other plants have faded and are going dormant. Many of mine are from Brent and Becky’s in Gloucester, Virginia. I am so happy these plants are flourishing and have multiplied in numbers.

Here are some photos of my colchicum and some of the other blooms and interesting plants growing in the garden right now, enjoy.

Guests that come around this time of year often ask, “what are those flowers that look like crocus?” The common name for Colchicum is autumn crocus, but they are not true autumn crocus because there are many species of true crocus which are autumn blooming. Also, Colchicum flowers have six stamens while crocuses have only three.

Colchicum is a member of the botanical family Colchicaceae and is native to West Asia, Europe, parts of the Mediterranean coast, down the East African coast to South Africa and the Western Cape.

Colchicum corms are pretty large, with waxy, dark-brown, leathery skin. When selecting Colchicum corms, look for ones that are firm, dense, and heavy. We planted a number of colchicum corms several years ago at the edge of my Stewartia Garden. I also have them growing along my front carriage road and a few in my White Garden.

The scientific name comes from Colchis, a region on the coast of the Black Sea. The name Colchicum alludes to the poisonous qualities of the species. The plant contains an alkaloid known as colchicine, which is found in all parts, but mostly in the seeds. Colchicum typically blooms from September to November. This is among the largest of colchicum varieties, ‘Giant,’ with its bright lilac colored flowers and white centers.

Once open, Colchicums produce goblet-like blooms in shades of pink, violet, or white. They are large striking flower heads, with white at the base leading to pale pink at the apex.

Some of the varieties we’ve planted at the farm include ‘Lilac Wonder’, ‘Waterlily’, ‘Dick Trotter’, Colchicum byzantinum, and Colchicum bornmuelleri. This one is “Waterlily” – a double petaled cultivar in soft pink.

Here’s a closer look at ‘Waterlily’. ‘Waterlily’ is a hybrid resulting from a cross of Colchicum autumnale ‘Alboplenum’ and Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’. Each flower resembles the form of a water lily, hence the cultivar name.

When the weather is mild, colchicum’s flowers begin to unfurl. Most Colchicum plants produce their flowers without any foliage. This is why these flowers were first known by the common name “naked boys.” In the Victorian era, they were also called “naked ladies.”

Colchicums are quite delicate but spread nicely in the autumn garden. Colchicum is a good pollen source for bees in fall when little else is available for them. And, because Colchicums are toxic, they provide a natural way to repel animals such as deer, mice, squirrels, and moles. This variety has reddish violet flowers and is one of the darkest colors of this group.

The white variety is growing in my White Garden just outside my Winter House. It’s called ‘Album’ and has large, bright, vase-shaped blooms.

Another variety is called Colchicum byzantinum. It is an early fall-blooming Colchicum which bears up to 20 small, funnel-shaped, soft lilac flowers that are four to six inches long.

Colchicum is best grown in a sheltered spot that enjoys afternoon sun because this encourages a good succession of wide-open flowers.

Colchicum corms should be planted six to nine inches apart, but don’t worry – look how plentiful they grow once established.

Colchicum looks great clustered together. Planting in groups will create many colorful patches.

Over the years, they’ve multiplied in numbers here at the farm. These line the carriage road near my front gate. I love how they dot the garden with pops of bright pink. And If we’re lucky, some of these blooms will last into November.


7 Stunning Stargazing Events To Add To Your Fall Calendar

Stacey Leasca reporting on the Fall celestial sights that can be seen for Real Simple.

As Henri Poincaré, a French mathematician and theoretical physicist once wrote, “Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand… It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony.”

If that’s not enough inspiration to look toward the stars tonight, we don’t know what is. But if you happen to need more of a reason, here are a few not-to-miss astronomy events occurring between October and December of 2021 that you should absolutely add to your fall calendar. Watching these glorious meteor showers and eclipses are guaranteed to fill you and your family with awe.

1 October 7: Draconids Meteor Shower

According to SeaSky, the Draconids is a minor meteor shower that produces about 10 meteors per hour. While it’s not the largest meteor shower on the list, it’s a great one for families with small children to enjoy because it’s one of the few that’s best viewed in the early evening instead of early morning hours. Keep an eye on the sky from October 6 to 10, with the peak display on October 7, thanks to a new moon.

Visible from: Best viewed from the northern hemisphere, but those in the southern hemisphere could still get a show.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

2 October 21, 22: Orionids Meteor Shower

For a bit heftier of a show, wait for the Orionids, which produces up to 20 meteors per hour. The meteor shower is actually grains of dust left behind by the Halley comet, which EarthSky describes as “arguably the most famous of all comets, which last visited Earth in 1986.”

The annual event actually takes place between October 2 to November 7, but peaks on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22.

Visible from: Anywhere on Earth

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

3 November 4, 5: Taurids Meteor Shower

Like the Draconids, the Taurids is not a major show, producing just five to 10 meteors per hour. However, it’s a unique one to view because it’s made up of two separate streams rather than one. The first, SeaSky explains, “is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke.” The event will peak this year on the night of November 4 and the early morning of November 5. It may also be a good show as it’s another new moon event.

Visible from: Anywhere on Earth

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

4 November 17, 18: Leonids Meteor Shower

Like the others, the Leonids doesn’t pack as big of a punch when it comes to the quantity of meteors, producing just 15 per hour at its peak—but it more than makes up for it in the quality of its meteors. According to, this annual shower is “responsible for some of the most intense meteor storms in history. Sometimes, meteors fall at rates as high as 50,000 per hour.”

The shower peaks on the night of November 17 and the morning of November 18. A full moon will be hanging overhead, but you still may be able to see a few flickers as they come down.

Visible from: Best viewed from the northern hemisphere, but those in the southern hemisphere could still get a show.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

5 November 19: Partial Lunar Eclipse

The moon will pass through Earth’s shadow on November 19, causing a partial lunar eclipse. It’s an event that’s slow and steady: perfect for setting out a blanket and watching the sky for as long as you can. Though, you may end up taking a nap in the middle, as the eclipse is set to last more than three hours.

Visible from: Eastern Russia, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, North America, Mexico, Central America, and parts of western South America.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.

6 December 4: Total Solar Eclipse

The big player of astronomy events—a total solar eclipse—will take place on December 4, 2021. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves to completely block the sun. However, because of the moon’s small stature compared to the sun, this event will not be visible to the entire planet. That just means you need to start planning your trip now to somewhere in its path and see it in all its glory.

Visible from: Antarctica and the southern Atlantic Ocean. According to NASA, a partial eclipse will be visible across much of South Africa. (You’re likely not in Antarctica, so don’t forget to look up photos of this sensational solar event after the fact.)

Equipment you need to view it: Solar eclipse glasses. Careful: Do not look at the eclipse without the right equipment.

7 December 13, 14: Geminids Meteor Shower

This year is going out with a bang. The Geminids Meteor Shower, which SeaSky calls “the best shower in the heavens,” will take over the sky on December 13 and the morning of December 14 when it’ll rain down up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. The sprinkling from the stars is actually produced by debris left behind by the 3200 Phaethon asteroid. There will be some significant light from the moon, however, SeaSky notes, the Geminids are so “numerous and bright that this could still be a good show.”

Visible from: Best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, but those in the Southern Hemisphere could still get a show.

Equipment you need to view it: Nothing, just find a remote and dark location to view from.


Six Fall Landscaping Ideas That Will Help Your Garden Transition Into the New Season


Carolyn Biggs gives some good tips for Fall landscaping for Martha Stewart Magazine.

From container plant tips to using mulch, here’s what four landscape architects say you should do in the garden come autumn.

There’s no better time than the fall to work on your garden. “The soil is easier to dig because it’s warmer and not constantly being flooded with spring rains,” explains Melissa Reavis, residential studio director at Hollander Design Landscape Architects. “The air temperature is a bit more comfortable for being outside and the weather is usually a bit more predictable (you don’t have to deal with the crazy late frosts). Plus, plants tend to be cheaper in garden centers because they’re not covered in pretty flowers.”

However, if you live in an area with especially cold winters, it’s important to choose hardier plant varieties, such as Oriental poppies and peonies, and look after them more diligently. “Certain plants may not survive in extreme winter climates,” says Mario Nievera of Nievera Williams Landscape Architecture. “Make sure you have planted the rootball properly with no air pockets in the soil [surrounding] the rootball. Trim deadwood branches and old leaves. And don’t water late in the season or too close to a pending frost.” Ahead, experts explain their top fall landscaping ideas for your garden.

Create Compost

If you’re throwing out all of the dead leaves that accumulate in your yard during the fall, garden and landscape designer Amber Freda says you might want to rethink your method. “People always think they should rake and bag up their fall leaves, but fall leaves are nature’s mulch that actually help improve the soil quality, over time, by creating a natural layer of compost,” she says. “If you don’t like the way the leaves look in your garden beds, consider purchasing a mulching leaf vacuum/blower. They come with a bag attached that will instantly turn the leaves into a fine mulch and deposit them cleanly into the included bag for you, which you can then dump into your garden beds and spread like regular mulch.”

Try Container Plants

Not only do potted plants make beautiful additions to any outdoor area, but they can also be brought indoors if it gets too cold to keep them outside. “For fall containers, pair sturdy, hardy succulents like echeveria with pansies and violas,” says Stephen Eich, urban studio director at Hollander Design Landscape Architects. “The succulents can then be potted and placed indoors for a wonderful display to enjoy through the winter.”

Think Outside the Mum

Prefer your fall garden with a little more pizzazz? Eich says to consider planting cool-season vegetables and greens instead of traditional mums. “Mixing cabbages, rainbow chards, and kales with ornamental grasses will create a vibrant display for special spaces in the garden,” he explains. “They also provide appetizing veggies while adding texture to the scene.”

Plant Plenty of Trees and Shrubs

Landscape architect Janice Parker says the fall is a wonderful time to plant evergreen trees as well as deciduous ornamental trees and shrubs. “Trees that work beautifully are Japanese maples, especially the cut leaf weepers, Sargent crabapples, and weeping cherries,” she says. If you’re looking forbroadleaf evergreen foliage, she says hardy boxwood, Delaware Valley White azaleas, and Mt. Fire Andromeda will also fare well in cold weather conditions. “Evergreens such as Hinoki cypress and birds nest spruce can be grown in containers,” she adds. “Just remember that these containers will need water and attentive care during the winter—especially if there is no snow cover.”

Mind Your Borders 

Your landscape borders—the sliver of space between your grass and garden—are brimming with visual opportunity, and all you need in order to take advantage of the space are the right plants. “Think beyond fall foliage for seasonal interest,” Eich says. “Using unique plants, such as Callicarpa (beautyberry), adds an unexpected pop of vibrant purple to the landscape and contributes something special to perennial borders.” Reavis adds: “Many people are too quick to deadhead their plants once the flowers are spent, but plants like alliums and Rudbeckia can continue to add texture and interest to your borders well into fall.”

Don’t Forget About Fruit

A little fruit can go a long way in dressing up your fall landscape. “Certain shrubs and trees have fruits and berries that can add to your garden’s fall display,” Parker says. “Shrubs like bayberry, Scarlet firethorn, sumacs, roses, elderberries, chokeberries, and winterberries have beautifullycolored fruit that brings extra visual interest to a garden.”

Queen Anne’s Lace: More Than A Wild Carrot

Amber Kanuckel writes about Queen Anne’s Lace, a cousin of the carrot, for The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

This wild cousin of the carrot with its beautiful white flowers is steeped in legends and lore and has a very interesting history. Learn more!

Even if you never knew its name, you’ve almost certainly seen this plant with its lovely white flowers. Queen Anne’s Lace is an American classic and can be found growing wild across the entire continental United States, from early spring to fall. The wildflowers’ scientific name is Daucus carota but is sometimes referred to as wild carrot, bishop’s lace, or the bird’s nest flower because as the flowers ripen to seeds, the stems curl upward and form a cup-shaped basket that looks like a bird’s nest.

Whichever name you prefer, this wild cousin of the carrot is steeped in legends and lore and has a very interesting history.

Queen Anne’s Lace And Carrots: Are They Related?

This plant gets the “wild carrot” name for a good reason. Queen Anne’s Lace and the carrots we eat today are related. The flower produces a carrot-like taproot, and in fact, modern (and much more delicious) carrots were originally developed from Queen Anne’s Lace; they were simply bred to produce a tastier root. Both carry the scientific name Daucus carota, though Queen Anne’s Lace is considered the “feral” version of the plant while today’s carrots are considered selectively bred cousins.

If you’ve ever picked the flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace, you’ve probably noticed a very carroty smell on your hands. And that large, starchy root certainly looks and smells like a carrot. But unlike carrots growing in your garden, a Queen Anne’s Lace “carrot” is a pale yellowish-white shade. You can eat it, but it’s not very tasty. The roots tend to be tough and stringy and if you choose to give them a try, they must be harvested early in the year. By the time the flowers bloom, the root becomes much too woody to eat.

Queen Anne’s Lace Legends And Lore

How did Queen Anne’s Lace get its name? You probably guessed that it has to do with Queen Anne, but like most tales and legends surrounding flowers, there are many.

One tale claims that the origin of the name “Queen Anne’s Lace” comes from the lace that was popular during the days of King James I and his wife, the first Queen Anne, who lived between 1574 and 1619. Another states that the name comes from her headdress, which was lacy enough that it resembled the tightly-knit showy white flowers.

But historians claim it’s more likely that any legends associated with the flower refer to Queen Anne II who lived between 1665 and 1714. She had only one surviving child in all of her 18 pregnancies. Because of that fact, the flower is often associated with the loss of children.

Some believe the flower got its name because while Queen Anne II was tatting white lace, she pricked her finger with the tatting needle, causing a drop of blood to fall on the lace. This is why the white flowers have dark red flowers in the center.

In the 18th century, English courtiers referred to this flower as “living lace.” According to this legend, the “living lace” name came from a contest that the second Queen Anne II hosted for her ladies-in-waiting. She challenged them to produce a piece of lace as delicate and beautiful as the flower—but none could make lace that could outshine the real thing.

Queen Anne’s Lace As Medicine?

Queen Anne’s Lace also has a history of medicinal use.* More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates prescribed crushed Queen Anne’s Lace seeds to prevent pregnancies. Modern research today suggests that there may have been some merit to this, so it is recommended that women who are pregnant or hoping to conceive should avoid both the flower heads and seeds.

Over the years, this flower has also had a variety of other uses. Herbalists historically used it as an antiseptic, to soothe the digestive tract, and as a diuretic. Flowers can also be used to make a natural pale yellow dye.

*This information is not intended as medical advice.

Watch Out For These Queen Anne’s Lace And Lookalikes!

If you’re planning to pick Queen Anne’s Lace, learning to identify the lookalikes is crucial because some of them are dangerous. The most common lookalikes you’ll find in the wild are:

  • Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum L.)
  • Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Both poison hemlock and giant hogweed are poisonous to humans, pets, and livestock when ingested. It’s best to avoid cow parsley as well.

Giant hogweed and cow parsley also have a sap inside the leaves and stalks that causes burns to the skin. Additionally, even touching the poison hemlock plant may cause a skin reaction in some people.

So how do you tell the difference? Here are some tips:

1. Check the flowers

If the plant is in bloom, the flowerhead will be a sure indicator. Queen Anne’s Lace flowerheads are tightly packed with lots of tiny white flowers—and sometimes a dark red or purple one in the center. The flowerhead is also always cup-shaped like an umbrella turned inside out. Giant hogweed flowers look very similar to this, but the flower heads are in reverse—dished outward rather than inward. Both poison hemlock and cow parsley do bloom with tiny white flowers, but the flowerheads are sparse and fragmented rather than tight clusters.

2. Look at the leaves

Queen Anne’s Lace has ferny leaves, just like a carrot plant, with a hairy underside. If you rub them, the scent will be similar to carrots or parsley. Poison hemlock has larger leaves, and they’re shiny without small hairs, while giant hogweed has large leaves with coarse hairs on the underside.

3. Examine the stems

Queen Anne’s Lace stems will sport fine white hairs, and they’ll be a uniform shade—no purple spots. Both poison hemlock and giant hogweed have purple spots. Hemlock has smooth, waxy stems, and giant hogweed has stems with coarse white hairs.

4. Check the plant’s height

When plants are young, height may not work so well to help you tell the difference, but late in the summer when plants are maturing, Queen Anne’s Lace will be much shorter than both poison hemlock and giant hogweed. Queen Anne’s Lace tops out at around four feet maximum while poison hemlock can grow up to eight feet, and giant hogweed can be truly giant between eight and 20 feet tall!

Growing Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace is a biennial, which means that has a two-year cycle. In the first year, the plant displays leaves and shoots. In the second year, it begins to form clusters of small white flowers, which can self pollinate or get help from bees and other pollinators. Each plant can produce up to 40,000 seeds, one for each of the tiny white flowers (but not for the dark red or purple flower, if present—this one is sterile). While flowering times vary from region to region, you can usually spot the white flowers around mid to late summer.

This flower grows in 48 states—but it’s not native to North America. It was brought here by early European settlers who grew it for medicinal purposes, and it has since spread across the country to grow wild. It’s listed as a weed rather than as a native plant, and 14 states list Queen Anne’s Lace as an invasive species. You’ll often find it growing in abandoned fields and lots, burned areas that are starting to recover, and other places where the ground has recently been disturbed.

Today, Queen Anne’s Lace is occasionally used in floral arrangements—and it’s a great flower to pick if you’re hunting wildflowers to make your own bouquet. Just take care to steer clear of the lookalikes!

Securing Property Borders

Landscape online magazine give some good advice on creating property borders for your home.

There are a number of potential problems homeowners may face in the garden. Many are due to the effects of the elements on garden plants: wind and rain contribute to soil erosion, long dry spells cause dehydration, local insect or animal pests may consume foliage at will. Garden theft is often a negligible concern for most homeowners prior to planting, but it does happen. Expensive items such as stone birdbaths, stained glass ornaments, wooden carvings, or even well-made planting pots may all be subject to theft or damage from animal pests. By taking a few simple steps, however, homeowners can vastly reduce the chances of theft and damage on their property.

Securing property borders begins with assessing the threats involved. Are items being stolen or deliberately broken? It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether an animal or human party is responsible. Survey the damage carefully: what has been broken or moved? What kinds of footprints have been made? Are any items missing? In the case of footprints or other obvious signs of human intrusion, it is best for homeowners to alert the authorities. Reporting vandalism or theft will give law enforcement officers the chance to track similar incidents in the local area.

When determining how best to secure their property’s borders, DIY landscapers also need to have an exact location for each of the property’s boundaries. This may be obtained in the legal description of the property obtained at the local municipal building inspector’s office. These documents will allow homeowners to determine the most effective locations for fences and walls while at the same time avoiding problems with the neighbors. Once there is some idea of how to proceed, DIY landscapers can begin making decisions with regard to barriers. Fences and walls are good choices and construction materials vary widely based on aesthetic preferences and budgetary concerns.

For homeowners wishing to keep to a more natural theme, dense hedge bushes may be the best choice. Many hedge varieties mature into an impassable barrier that requires little maintenance, serves as an excellent natural windbreak, and muffles external noise. For more severe problems (or particularly high-leaping animal pests), a tall fence may be in order. Soft woods such as pine provide an economical alternative to heavier stone and wrought-iron fences. For wooden fences where the posts are in constant contact with the ground, the posts should be a hard wood such as cedar to bolster resistance to moisture and rot. Interworking sharp decorative design along the top of the fence may also help discourage unwanted visitors.