As fall arrives, choose what to plant outside or bring indoors

September 16, 2020

On Sept. 22, we have the autumnal equinox, also called the September or fall equinox.

Our word “equinox” comes from Latin “aequus,” meaning “equal,” and “nox,” meaning “night. ” On the equinox, day and night are just about equal in length.

The date of the equinox varies because our calendar measures a year as 365 days, while the time it actually takes for Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun is one-quarter day longer, about 365-and-one-quarter days. So, each autumn equinox occurs around six hours later than the previous year's. This eventually moves the autumn equinox date by a day.

Fall foliage and the crimson, yellow and orange leaves may be the best part about the change of seasons. That beautiful fall foliage isn’t because of frost or a cold snap. Indeed, the colors were always there, just hidden by the very green chlorophyll in each leaf. Foliage changes color because sunlight gets weaker and the chlorophyll drains from the leaves.

Fall is also when colorful, delicate monarch butterflies fly up to 25 miles per hour to migrate to the warmth of Mexico and California.

Fall is a good time to plant new trees and shrubs because they will have plenty of time to grow roots and become established before next spring. Fruit trees and popular shade trees such as maples do well when planted in fall.

However, trees such as bald cypress, magnolia, ginkgo, larch, hemlock, and tulip tree, as well as broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendrons, all seem to do better planted in the spring.

Fall is also the very best time to plant lawn grasses from seed. Dig up the soil and rake it smooth before sowing grass seed. Be sure to water lightly at least once a week. For established lawns, fall is ideal for fertilizing. Lawns fed in the fall are better able to survive the winter.

To bring the garden indoors, pot up herbs such as basil, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley and chives. Do this before you have turned on your heating system so the plant can adjust more easily to the indoor air. Wipe down the herbs to remove pests. Put the newly potted plants in a cool, sunny spot, away from drafts and let the soil dry out before watering again. When you need an herb, just snip some leaves, always sparing enough foliage that the plant doesn't die.

Rather than leave your garden bare all winter, plant a cover crop such as winter rye that will loosen the soil and provide organic matter when it is tilled under in the spring.

Fall even changes gray squirrels’ brains. Seems that all of that finding nuts and hiding them causes a 15 percent increase in the size of the squirrels’ hippocampus, the area of the brain that deals with memory and emotion.

So get out in the garden and enjoy the fall equinox. Plant fruit trees, sow a cover crop, or just enjoy the changing foliage. Who knows, maybe your brain will grow too.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter