"HOW On Earth" – Published in Pink Magazine – October 2009

Autumn Planting

“The harvest moon hangs round and high
It dodges clouds high in the sky,
The stars wink down their love and mirth
The Autumn season is giving birth.
Oh, it must be October
The leaves of red bright gold and brown,
To Mother Earth come tumbling down,
The breezy nights the ghostly sights,
The eerie spooky far off sounds
Are signs that it’s October.
The pumpkins yellow, big and round
Are carried by costumed clumsy clowns
It’s Halloween – let’s celebrate.”
–   Pearl N. Sorrels,
It Must be October

October is here with its beautiful weather. I love being outside this month in the garden. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”  October is filled with gardening delights. The summer flowers in our gardens have mostly faded and the nurseries are brimming with new and exciting ones to choose. I often get asked, “When is the best time to plant?” and the answer is October. This is the month for planting shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs and vegetables. October is also a great month for evaluating your garden design and attending garden tours.

“Isn’t springtime the best time for planting?” you might ask. Springtime is also a good time to plant, but for many things the fall is better. When you plant now, the cooler weather encourages good root growth with limited top growth. What this means is that come springtime, we have a plant with established roots much better equipped to handle the demands of our high heat and humidity. Also, plants planted in the fall will require less water not only now but also in the spring and summer which is again the result of established root growth. Plants planted in the spring have the opposite growth pattern, with lots of top growth and little root growth. Let’s take a look at some of the wonderful things we can do and see in our gardens this month.

Planting Annuals

Okay, this concept took a little while for me to get used to coming from the north, but yes, this is the month to plant what we call our cool season annuals.

Planted between October and November, these annuals will provide color off and on till May. For those of you from the north this list might resemble your springtime planting list. I have created a table to help you with selecting the right annuals for your needs.

Annual                                                Habit                           Site

Dianthus Mounding Full sun, part sun, light shade
Snapdragons Dwarf, medium and tall varieties Full sun, part sun, light shade
Alyssum Trailing, low growing Full sun
Lobelia Trailing, low growing Part shade
Stocks Medium upright Full sun
Poppies Medium uptight Full sun
Petunias Trailing, low growing, mounding Full sun
Calendulas Medium upright Full sun
African daisy Trailing, mounding Full sun
Diascia Trailing, low growing Full sun, part sun
Nemesia Trailing,  low growing Full sun
Salvia Upright medium Full sun, part sun
Million bells Trailing, mounding Full sun
Bacopa Trailing, low growing Full sun, part shade
Pansy, violas Low growing, mounding Full sun, part sun

Color and Texture with Foliage

Foliage plants make a lovely addition to the colorful array of flowers for our fall and winter gardens. These can be added to our garden beds, borders and pots. These include: Ferns, Acorus, Liriope, Mustard, Bor, Chard, Cabbages, Kale, Sorrel, Lamium, Sagina, Sellaginella, Wirevine, Rosemary, Parsley and Ajuga.

Vegetable Gardening
I find this season so rewarding in my vegetable garden. The insects and diseases are greatly reduced and the high demands of watering and weeding have diminished. I also love the almost instant gratification some of the crops provide. With the help of my children, this month we are planting the following: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Peas, Spinach, Lettuce, Radishes, Beets, Cabbage, Collards, Bok Choy, Onions, Parsley, Potatoes, Turnips and Parsnips.

Planting Perennials, Shrubs and Trees

This is prime planting season for planting and transplanting. If you have been thinking of moving some plants around or redesigning an area in your yard, now is the ideal time. Transplanted plants will benefit from some pruning back. I recommend only a light pruning this time of year. Wait until spring for any major pruning work. They will also benefit from some root stimulator.

For inspiration on new plants and ideas, visit your local nursery or public garden.


Preservation Society of Charleston

33rd Annual Fall Tours of Home & Gardens

September 24th – October 25th


The Charleston Horticultural Society’s ninth annual “Gardens for Gardeners”

Sunday October 4th

12:00pm – 4:00pm