LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Temperatures are becoming cooler as we progress into the fall season, and this provides much-needed respite from the heat for us and our plants. Fall is a great time to get out into the garden.
If you haven’t already, there’s still time to get cool-season vegetables planted in Louisiana. Some options include radishes, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lettuce and leafy greens such as collards, mustards and spinach. These crops will grow well in the cooler temperatures and shorter days of fall. Many herbs, including basil, cilantro and parsley, can be grown throughout the fall. They all can be grown in containers or in your garden.
Annuals provide the most color for the landscape. So, if you are looking for a pop of color, add annual bedding plants. As we are still experiencing temperatures in the 80s, there are selections of cool-season annuals with more heat tolerance that also will do well in colder temperatures.
Some cool-season annuals include alyssum, annual phlox, dianthus, petunia and snapdragons. Many of your warm-season annuals planted in the spring have experienced a renewal after the temperatures began to drop. Continue to enjoy those flowers until temperatures really begin to dip.
Apart from those previously mentioned, ornamental peppers make fantastic additions to your autumn garden. They exhibit the classic fall hues of orange, red, yellow and purple. And let's not overlook mums, a beloved autumn staple.
Additionally, be sure to explore the Louisiana Super Plant recommendations, which include the Swan series columbine, Diamonds Blue delphinium, Amazon and Jolt series dianthus, Camelot series foxglove, Redbor kale, Supertunia Vista Bubblegum and Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo petunias and Sorbet series violas. These are all excellent choices for enhancing your fall garden.
In addition to cool-season annuals, fall is a great time to plant perennial flowers, shrubs and trees. The milder weather gives them a chance to establish their root systems before the heat of summer returns.
Before planting, you can improve the soil by adding compost or well-aged manure, both of which are rich sources of organic matter. They break down over time to release essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients are vital for plant growth and development.
Both compost and manure are teeming with beneficial microorganisms. These microorganisms enhance the soil's biological activity, breaking down organic matter and releasing nutrients in a form that plants can readily absorb.
Additionally, the organic matter in compost and manure helps improve soil structure. It enhances the soil's ability to retain moisture and nutrients while also promoting aeration and drainage. This is particularly important in clay soils, as it prevents them from becoming compacted and aids root development. Proper soil preparation is essential for successful gardening.
Even though the weather is cooler, it's important to keep your garden adequately watered. Pay attention to the moisture needs of your plants, as they can still dry out during the fall. October is traditionally the driest month in Louisiana, and the extended drought of the summer continues right into the fall. The good news is that plants use less water in the cooler temperatures.
Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, as some can be active during the fall. Regularly inspect your plants and take appropriate measures to control any issues that may arise. Mealy bugs, scales, aphids, mites and white flies in particular are active.
Check mulch layers in the garden and reapply if needed. Mulch helps reduce weeds, retain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature. This is especially important as the weather begins to cool down. Mulches can keep soil temperatures warmer when temperatures really begin to drop, protecting roots during the winter months.
Louisiana's climate can vary from north to south, so be sure to consider your specific location when planning your fall garden. Additionally, check with your local LSU AgCenter office for specific planting dates and recommendations tailored to your area.
With the right planning and care, your fall garden in Louisiana can yield a bountiful harvest and beautiful flowers. Be sure to visit the LSU AgCenter’s website for more information on fall gardening specifics.
Ornamental peppers make fantastic additions to your autumn garden. LSU AgCenter file photo
Dianthus is an excellent cool-season bedding plant. Look for Amazon and Jolt dianthus, both Louisiana Super Plants. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Mums are a beloved autumn staple. Photo by Anna Ribbeck/LSU AgCenter