Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: October 2, 2008

Cool Season Annuals

Need help?
Check out our Services.
A Rainbow of Pansy Flower Colors

My poor neighbors in Montana could never imagine having such colorful winter gardens full of flowering plants and dazzling foliage. Aside from some of their blue and/or golden conifers, their main winter colors are brown and white. I guess that works for them since no one really sits outside during those months anyway.

For years, the cool season annual garden consisted mainly of mums and asters mixed with pansies in the fall followed by the lone flowering pansies through the winter into early spring when they could be combined with snapdragons and sweet peas. One day someone in a moment of genuis inspiration got the idea to use cool season vegetables as ornamentals for fall, winter and early spring color. Brilliant!

Leaves of Ornamental Cabbage Redbor Ornamental Kale

Cool season annuals are typically planted from late September to mid October in soil that has been well-amended and is located in full sun. Remember that areas in partial shade during the summer and fall can be in full sun once the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves. Because these ornamental vegetables as well as pansies are annuals, they are heavy feeders and need regular applications of fertilizer every few weeks. It's best to use fertilizers that are labeled as pansy bloom boosters as they are formulated to work better in cooler soil temperatures. Be on the look out for pest problems from caterpillars, snails, slugs, rabbits and deer. Cool season annuals are usually removed in mid April and replaced with summer annuals. Note: pansies are actually perennial although they usually look pretty ratty in the summer which is why they are usually removed. One year, I decided to leave mine. I cut them back and planted summer annuals to hide them. When I removed the summer annuals that fall, the pansies rebounded.

Since the ornamental varieties of vegetables have been grown for their looks, they may not taste as good as those grown strictly for culinary purposes. However, give them a try if you want and let us know how they taste. I'm hopeful that other cool season vegetables such as broccoli, collards, spinach and lettuce will be bred for ornamental purposes at some point in the future thus widening our winter annual garden choices.

A Mixture of Swiss Chard Foliage Red Stems of Swiss Chard

Final Thoughts

I hate to sound like a broken record, but yes there are some cool season annuals that have become pest plants. Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) and many of the mustards (Brassica spp.) have been listed as non-native invasive plants in some parts of the U.S.

Copyright © 2008 by Theresa Schrum - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of Theresa Schrum