Fall Gardening: What to Plant Now

Cary, NC – It was a parching August across the Piedmont. But with a good soaking rain coming our way this weekend, it’s time to get started on Fall planting.

Romaine lettuce.

Romaine lettuce.


Top four reasons to plant lettuce now:

  1. Easy to grow
  2. Good for you
  3. More nutritious than store bought
  4. Variety and flavor

If you enjoy a salad, there’s nothing like growing your own lettuce. It’s easy to grow and perfectly happy in a medium-sized pot or sunny garden bed.

What to Buy

Buy small nursery plants at the garden store. It’s way too late to grow lettuce from seed. Six little plants will give you several weeks of fresh lettuce for the table.

How to Grow

Lettuce likes rich soil, plenty of sun and moist roots. If you plant in the garden bed, enrich the soil with fertilizer, mushroom compost or Black Cow. If you plant in a pot, put in a load of fresh potting soil.



Chrysanthemums are probably the #1 seller for Fall gardeners. Mums add an explosion of color in saturated shades of orange, gold, yellow and red.

Mums are best used in mass, but also make a nice accent by the door or the mailbox.

Are Mums Perennial?

Mums are generally perennial in my garden. But unless you’re religious about pinching and mulching (I’m not), you never get the original heavy autumn bloom.

For that reason, the majority of home gardeners treat mums as an annual. After the bloom is over (first frost), they yank the plants out of the ground.



Plant pansies now for a pop of Autumn color and a big show in the Spring.

Great massed together in beds, pansies are equally content in pots and containers.

What to Buy

Buy flats of small nursery plants at the garden store. Pansies come in a dizzying array of single and bi-color varieties from yellow to purple.

How to Grow

Pansies like rich soil, plenty of sun in the winter and moist roots.


Voilas, also called violets, are in the same family as pansies. They have smaller flowers and more delicate features, making them a nice combination with their cousins in a container or bed.

What to Buy

Buy flats of small nursery plants at the garden store. Violas, like pansies, come in a wide range of single and bi-color varieties.

How to Grow

Violas like rich soil, plenty of sun in the winter and moist roots.

Ornamental cabbage

Ornamental cabbage


For Piedmont gardeners, cabbage comes in two varieties: edible and ornamental.

If you have room in the garden bed, now is a good time to plant a row of cabbage. You’ll find four or five varieties in flats at the garden store. Edible cabbage matures in 70 to 120 days.

Just as popular, many gardeners plant ornamental cabbage, a hybrid variety known for exotic leaf shape and bright colors. Ornamental cabbage looks good in pots or massed in garden beds.

How to Grow

Cabbage like rich soil, plenty of sun in the winter and moist roots. Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so repeated applications of fertilizer are necessary for heads to form properly.

Red Giant mustard.

Red Giant mustard.

Other Veggies

Other cool season veggies for the Piedmont garden include chard, mustard, kale, collards, onions and radishes. For a detailed list, see NC Cooperative Extension.

Trees, Shrubs, Bulbs

Later this month, we’ll talk about planting trees, shrubs and bulbs.

For now, take advantage of the last few weeks of Summer-like weather and long-ish days to give your Fall flowers and vegetables a good start.

Story and photos by Hal Goodtree. The Gardening column is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.