Autumnal Aspirations

04 Oct 2020

Create alluring spaces to enjoy all the season offers


With all the extra time we’ve had on our hands, more people than ever took an interest in gardening. Once you’ve enjoyed a homegrown tomato sandwich, had a bumper crop of squash and zucchini, or set an arrangement of your own cut flowers onto your dining table, it is natural you might feel a twinge of sadness as summer comes to a close.  Alas, summer must always give way to fall. With the cooler temperatures and shorter days, you might believe your garden is ready for a long winter’s nap—but don’t put away your gloves and trowels just yet. There is still plenty you can do to get ahead for the coming spring and to extend your current season so you can reap all the beautiful, and tasty, benefits of an autumnal garden.

Grow Food This Fall

Unless you have the space and desire for a greenhouse, you’ll have to wait until spring to even think about another tomato harvest. But there are some delicious vegetables you can enjoy well into the cooler months. If you’re unsure where to begin, the friendly and knowledgeable staff of Highlands Lawn and Garden is here to help your fall garden succeed.

Easily spotted just outside of Highlands, NC, on Highway 64, Highlands Lawn and Garden has been serving the plateau for over 25 years, meaning they are well-versed in helping their customers overcome all the gardening obstacles the plateau can throw at them. The shop’s manager, Darin Keener, acknowledges that growing in the fall can be somewhat tricky, mainly due to the wide range of elevations in such a small area. “It all depends on your elevation. Our zones vary from 5b at higher elevations to 7a at lower elevations,” says Keener, “and that really does make a huge difference.”

Still, what all you can grow may surprise you. In fact, the lower temperature this time of year enhances the flavor of several favorites of home gardeners. Frost hardy plants like arugula, kale, spinach, brassicas, leeks and garlic all thrive outside of summer’s heat.

To maximize your fall bounty, there are a few things to take into consideration. Arugula and radishes, for instance, only need roughly a month from seed to harvest. You can plant these over and over again, so long as the conditions are right, and enjoy these peppery vegetables well after the first frost. For most other frost tolerant plants, you’ll find it better to buy ones already started by your local nursery.

Mr. Keener warns of another hurdle with edible gardening in the fall, especially in the mountains: the unpredictable weather. “Sometimes our first frost comes really early,” he says, but he has an attractive solution. “Containers are great. If it’s going to be too cold, you can bring your plants inside,” he says, noting that some edible plants, like herbs, fare well if grown indoors in a sunny room.

Another reason to stay in your vegetable garden this fall is actually to get it ready for spring and beyond. Some cold hardy crops, like garlic and asparagus, need a lot of time in the ground before they reach your plate—asparagus taking a full two years to reach maturity. While you’re thinking in the long term, late fall is a fantastic time for planting fruiting trees. “Apple trees and cherry trees [perform best] in our area,” Mr. Keener says. Planting fruit trees in the fall allows them time to establish strong root systems while otherwise dormant, which is important when considering future yields.

Autumn Ornamental Gardening

As with edible gardening, growing from seed may not make sense on the plateau for the vast majority of ornamental plants. Luckily, local nurseries like Chattooga Gardens offer a plethora of plants ready for your flower beds and containers. Nestled on Valley Road in Cashiers, NC, Chattooga Gardens is an adorable nursery that has been beautifying the area for over 20 years. 

In order to keep your flower garden looking amazing throughout the season, the owner of Chattooga Gardens, Jeff Zahner, suggests starting with routine maintenance. Tend to any weeds or thin spots in your mulch and plant cold-resistant flowers like violas, which will provide you with colorful blooms even after the first frost. In an area as precious as the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, the plants you choose for your garden matter. “While we offer a broad range of plants, we are proponents of native plants since they provide ecological value to the landscape in addition to ornamental attributes,” says Zahner.

When it comes to pests, Mr. Zahner says deer are formidable foes to gardens around the plateau. “Try to select plants that are known to be bothered less by deer or be prepared to take other measures,” he says, suggesting Lenten roses and hellebores are great options for a fall-winter garden that are unbothered by pesky deer.

One trend noted by Shelby Wilson, a sales consultant at Chattooga Gardens, is the strong resurgence of house plants. “[House plants] never went away, but they’re extremely popular this year especially,” Wilson explains. It can be surmised that with more time spent working from home during the pandemic, beautifying our indoor spaces has become increasingly important for many people, homeowners and renters alike. More than just aesthetically pleasing, studies show having houseplants can improve one’s mood and concentration—both admirable goals when working primarily from home. A favored choice, Wilson points out, is the variegated croton, a broad-leaf plant with extraordinary colors that can bring all the warmth of autumnal tones into your home. You also can’t go wrong with a delightful display of succulents, of which Chattooga Gardens offers several varieties already perfectly arranged for your tabletop or in adorable hanging pots to take advantage of vertical space.

It’s also time to think ahead to your spring ornamental garden. Many spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips and daffodils should be planted in the fall to help your garden to blossom with an array of vibrant colors once the weather warms. Likewise, fruiting trees aren’t the only ones that should be planted in the fall. Ornamental and flowering trees and shrubs also benefit from being transplanted now to establish strong and healthy roots, which ensures you enjoy your investment for many years. 

Outdoor Design for Cooler Weather

When setting out to start a landscaping project, the biggest question to keep in mind is how you intend to utilize the completed space. This is an important investment in your home and one that should not be rushed. There is also no shame in admitting your thumb isn’t quite as green as you’d like it to be or if DIY projects aren’t your cup of tea. Four Seasons Landscape has been lovingly crafting remarkable outdoor retreats for clients all around the plateau for 26 years. “We have a deep passion and strong connection to the mountains and areas surrounding Highlands and Cashiers,” says owner Rick Haight. 

“Autumn is just as busy for the true gardener as the spring,” says Haight. One of the biggest landscaping jobs for many people is the lawn itself; Mr. Haight notes fescue lawns, specifically, need yearly renovation in the early fall. For the same reasons to transplant trees and shrubberies, now is the time to install sod. The soil is still warm enough to encourage roots to establish and flourish, while the heat isn’t harsh enough to damage new growth. If your grass is already established, now is perfect for aerating and fertilizing before the ground hardens over winter. Aeration helps nutrients get where they are needed most, promoting healthier roots, which leads to a greener, more luxurious lawn come springtime.

Mulching is another excellent project which not only adds color and texture to your landscape but will also act as a barrier from extreme conditions while your plants overwinter. A good layer of mulch in the fall will also help limit the amount of pesky weeds in your garden or flower beds come spring by preventing germination. There are plenty of mulch types and colors to choose from to accentuate your home and garden perfectly.

Hardscaping is also an attractive endeavor for businesses and homeowners come fall.  Incorporating outdoor lighting and heat sources naturally extends your use of the space. There are options for almost every budget, from a simple paver patio bedecked with a firepit, to a brand new terrace with a rustic chiminea, to an elaborate outdoor living room with a stone fireplace and entertainment center—all fine options for settling down with a glass of wine or making s’mores with the family. It is with projects like these that Four Seasons Landscape really shines. Their approach to design seeks to harmonize the natural beauty surrounding your home with your desires for the space, creating an outdoor haven your family will appreciate for generations to come.

For more information about fall gardening, stop by these fine local retailers or visit them online.

Highlands Lawn and Garden


Chattooga Gardens


Four Seasons Landscape


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