Gardening for Labor Day Weekend

Cary, NC – Like baseball, gardening has its seasons. When it comes to Fall gardening, Labor Day weekend is the equivalent of Opening Day. Here are a few quick things you can do to get your season off to a good start.

Plant Chinese Cabbage

If you go to the garden store this weekend, you will probably find Chinese cabbage. Just pop the small nursery plants in a sunny garden bed and you’ll have long, firm heads in about 65 days.

So delicious, once you have truly fresh Chinese cabbage in a stir-fry, you will look down with disdain on all supermarket cabbages.

Chinese cabbage (Michihili)

Mustard Greens

Live large, plant some mustard greens. A Southern favorite, you can cook them with bacon.

With or without bacon, mustard greens are super rich in nutrients. Whatever your taste in food, there’s something with mustard greens: Calabrese Mustard GreensSarson Ka Saag and Japanese Mustard Greens with Garlic & Bacon (Mizuna).


Grow Lettuce

If tending your own kitchen garden can become like an addiction, lettuce is the gateway drug. Why? So easy, so instantly rewarding.

Really easy to grow in a container. Provide plenty of water, regular fertilizer, protect it from the hot sun for the next couple of weeks and you’ll be picking a fresh salad for the table from late September through Thanksgiving.

After that, you’ll want to escalate to mustard greens.

Buttercrunch lettuce


Everyone needs mums in the Fall. Instant color and excitement. Most people don’t even transplant them into a garden bed, they just leave them in the pot. Get a couple this weekend and put them by the front door.



If you have larger garden ambitions, I spotted some cauliflower nursery flats at the garden store.

Flats of “fancy vegetables” like cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens and the like don’t last long at the store. Retailers generally get what they get, and when it sells out, that’s it until next year.

So if you’ve been curious about cauliflower, make your move this weekend.

“Candid Charm” cauliflower


The most “bougee” of the fancy greens, arugula grows quickly in the fall and is delicious in salads, sautes and stir fries.

“Bougee” (pronounced “BOO-jhee”) is short for bourgeois. I spent the summer getting called “bougee” by my younger daughter for my effete taste in fancy vegetables.

If you have bougee tastes too, grow some arugula. Just don’t tell anybody.


Watermelon Heuchera

Heuchera is great for a shady spot or even in a container. I just loved the color. It really does remind one of watermelon.

Heuchera “Watermelon”

Add a Water Feature

Bird baths, fountains, min-waterfalls – those are water features. One of my favorite new garden gadgets is a solar powered submersible bird bath pump.

Water features can transform a garden space. Things on raised pedestals are good for tight spaces with shrubs or taller flowers.

Buy Some Tools

Garden tools get lost. Garden tools break. Anyway, it’s just fun to buy tools.

Buy a Wind Feature

Windmills, whirligigs, chimes – those are wind features. They move with the wind or make a sound adding interest to the garden. Every garden needs a wind feature.

Story and photos by Hal Goodtree. 

The Gardening Column on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.