If April showers bring May flowers, then Autumn planting brings a beautiful bounty! The heat and humidity of summer is waning and fall sports are back on the tv, which means it’s the perfect time to head back into the garden and bring a part of the Scenic City into your backyard. The MH Builder Group team aims to help both seasoned and aspiring gardeners alike bring a little bit more beauty into their lives so read on for a simple guide to planting for fall in Chattanooga.
Understanding Hardiness Zones
In order to maximize your planting success, look at the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Considered the gold standard by farmers and gardeners alike, this map determines which plants are most likely to survive in which locations. There are 13 zones total with Zone 1 encompassing the coldest growing areas, and Zone 13 encompassing the warmest. Chattanooga is located in zone 7 which is one of the most unique zones on the map.
Hardiness Zone 7
For hardiness Zone 7, planters must look to the extremes. In zones below 7, the high temperatures are usually rather temperate and in the zones above 7 rarely get cold enough for the lows to be a source of stress. However, for the Scenic City, we’re at risk of extreme highs and extreme lows making both an important fact for gardeners to know. On average, annual temperatures range from 52 to 73 degrees, with Fall/Winter temps ranging from 65 to 45 degrees. At its most extreme, winter temps can drop as low as 10 degrees. Though homeowners may have to keep a closer eye on major temperature fluctuations, the great news is that our climate is perfect for the amazing colors of fall. Chattanooga’s climate allows the vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds of Autumn to pop! September and October are great months to look towards vibrant tree foliage as well as hearty cool season vegetables and tender greens that may suffer under the punishing heat of summer.
Fall Annuals Well Suited to Cooler Zone 7B Temps
Marigolds, Petunias, Geraniums, Dahlias, Chrysanthemums, Muhly Grass
Fall Vegetables Well Suited to Zone 7B
Arugula, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Spinach
Unlike spring planting, gardeners should prioritize plants that prefer less intense or consistent sun and drier, cooler temperatures. Fall is a perfect time to plant vegetables like lettuce, turnips, or hearty greens (think ahead to those Thanksgiving sides) or plants with vibrant, deep color palettes like chrysanthemums or petunias.
Chrysanthemums, or mums for short, are a perfect choice for autumn planting. Though many plant them in spring, this hearty flower maintains its vibrancy and beauty throughout the fall. As part of the perennials family, your mums will deliver beauty to your yard year after year given proper planting and care. Select a planting site in full sun and away from other shrubs or trees, as mums need plenty of room and air circulation to thrive. Pick a spot where the plants are guaranteed a minimum of 18 inches between them to ensure they have enough air flow and space to grow. Mums also need plenty of water to succeed, so make sure the mums stay moist! If you’re worried about the ground getting too cold in winter or you want to be able to easily move the plants indoors during any winter freeze, consider potted mums that can allow you to better control the sun, space, temperature, and water they receive. Regardless of whether or not you choose potted or ground planting, make sure you’re buying garden-grade mums and not florist grade. Garden mums are heartier and more resilient to temperature fluctuations.
If you want to get a real head start on your spring garden, then reach for petunias. These popular annuals can be started in pots and maintained indoors throughout the winter and replanted outside after the last spring frost.
The cold, dark days of winter can easily be brightened by planting some robust, frost-hardy vegetables. Despite the risk of frost or more extreme lows, certain vegetables are sturdy enough to handle icy mornings and less substantial sun. As we approach the first frost, it’s a perfect time to prepare your garden for a lush, green winter harvest! Vegetables like turnips, kale, cabbage, and spinach are tough enough to handle dropping temperatures and yield a bountiful harvest well into the colder months.
Cabbage is a cold weather wonder and with Chattanooga’s first frost hitting later in the season in November, there’s still plenty of time to prepare your garden for this hearty vegetable. Cabbage thrives in sunlight and rich soil so it’s a great opportunity to get into composting or use other nitrogen-rich soil or additives. Though the plants need regular watering, a weekly dose will do it and ensure the soil isn’t packed too tightly so it can’t drain. Too much water can make the roots rot. If you’re worried about the resilience of the cabbage on those days of extreme cold, or if you’re planting newer cabbages, plant through a layer of black plastic which will help insulate the soil from more intense temps. If you want to maximize their size, be generous with their spacing – anywhere from 12 to 24 inches is perfect. Once the heads are firm, harvest and enjoy!
While fall and winter planting may require a bit more effort and attention than the spring flowering season, a beautiful and healthy garden is achievable and well worth the effort. Whether or not you’re looking to improve the curb appeal of your home for you or for prospective buyers, this guide will help you great the beautiful garden of your dreams.