For daily wit & wisdom, sign up for the Almanac newsletter.
Become a better gardener! Discover our new Almanac Garden Planner features for 2024. It’s easy, fun, and free to try!
Fall is a great time to turn your patio or deck into a growing haven for cool-weather plants. Yes, we’re serious! Fall is a wonderful time to plant in pots and planters. Follow these steps to create a pretty patio garden.
Why We Love Fall Patio Pots
We know it may sound odd to talk about starting a container garden in the fall, but it’s actually the perfect time for pots: There are fewer bugs and diseases to deal with, you’ll likely need to water less, and there’s less of a chance that you’ll have sweat dripping down into your eyes while you tend your plants. (That’s why fall gardens are perfect for beginners.)
As for why that garden should be on your patio, we have one word for you: convenience. Growing plants on your patio puts delicious vegetables, tasty herbs, and beautiful flowers right outside your door, literally. Plus, being close to the house provides some protection to your plants from wind and other harsh weather.
Follow these simple steps from picking the right plants to choosing your containers to potting up!
1. Pick Your Patio Plants
Select plants well in cool weather, match the sunlight available on your patio or deck (check the seed packet or plant tag), and, most importantly, that you like to eat or look at.
If your goal is to plant a cool-weather container vegetable garden, choose greens like lettuce and kale, quick-growing root veggies like radishes and carrots, or chilly weather-loving herbs like chives, parsley, mint, and thyme.
To add a burst of color to your patio, plant some fall annual flowers in containers like pansies, mums, ornamental kale or cabbage, or snapdragons.
Now that you know what you want to grow, think about the kinds of pots you want to grow those plants in. Start by considering your personal style.
Do you want a uniform look to your plantings?
Is there a color palette you prefer? Or, do you have a more eclectic style and prefer to mix things up?
Also, look at the space available. Is there room on the floor? Can you find space along a railing? Are there side tables you could set plants on?
Could you add hooks for hanging baskets?
Whatever you choose, make sure the pots give your plants room to grow and have drainage holes in the bottoms.
3. Design Your Space
Go on, take it a step further and think about how you can use your fall containers to turn your patio into somewhere you’ll actually be itching to spend some time.
Consider clustering plants in groups of three (put the biggest plants in the back) to create a colorful corner or focal area.
Taller plants can be used to form a beautiful divider to separate your space into cozier areas—go ahead and move the furniture around, grouping chairs and other seating to form inviting “rooms,” perhaps with different plant themes.
Use pots to frame an entrance up to your front door or from your back door onto the patio, or to flank a walkway. In this case, create symmetry so the planters on each side are similar in style or color.
Containers can also be used to create the feeling of more privacy. For example, even if you have a fence between you and neighbors, you can use mask the fence with greenery or you can use containers to create a focal point that’s nearer to your sitting area.
Don’t be afraid to think beyond the plants, too. Add twinkly lights, lanterns, or candles and toss a rug on the floor and throws on the chairs for warmth.
Last, but certainly not least, celebrate the fall season in style by interspersing pumpkins, gourds, and dried corn stalks in and around your plantings.
4. Plant Your Pots
For pots, we use “potting mix” (also called potting soil) which is lightweight and contains nutrition that your plants need to grow strong. Don’t use soil from your in-ground garden or yard–it’s too heavy.
Use high-quality potting mix to give plants the best possible start. Or, save some money by learning how to make your own potting mix.
Once you’ve planted, be sure to water your new plants to settle them in.
5. Check In On Your Plants Daily
Give your plants some love! In fact, take a look at them every time you walk by!
Water them whenever the top inch of soil is dry.
Make sure they’re getting enough sunlight.
Give them liquid plant food every couple of weeks to replace the nutrients they’re taking from the soil.
You may also want to do a bit of pruning to keep plants small, take off dead flowers, encourage herbs to grow bushier, or remove leaves or branches that show signs of disease.
6. Be Prepared for Frost
If you grow in the fall, you’re naturally going to be dealing with some pretty chilly weather. While a light frost is usually no problem and can actually make some vegetables taste sweeter (we’re looking at you, kale), a hard frost can harm even cool-weather plants, especially if they are young.
How to be prepare? Have an frost blanket or an old sheet on hand that you can drape over the pots (try not to touch the plants).
Another option is to cover each plant with a large, overturned plastic nursery pot (the kind you got your plants in)—just be sure to take those off when it warms up in the morning.
You’ve used that trusty patio all summer, so why stop now? With just a bit of time and effort, you can create a fall patio garden that will bring you joy–and fresh produce!–for weeks to come.