The autumn season is already upon us, and the cooler temperatures have me thinking about fall planter ideas.
This year, I’ve been inspired to make my own fall displays for my outdoor space without buying more plastic leaves, cheap pumpkin decor, or traditional mums (they’re fall staples for good reason, but I want to do something different this year).
So I thought, what better way to dress up my front porch than with edible plants that also happen to be beautiful and come in my favorite fall colors?
Here are some of my favorite easy ideas for fall containers.
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THE BEST PLANTS FOR EDIBLE FALL CONTAINER GARDENS
Those standard yellow mums we see on everyone’s front porch as soon as September swings around are great, but can you eat them? (Okay, chrysanthemums actually are edible. You can make tea with the flowers. But we’re trying to spice up your planters, you know? Bring a little more variety to your fall plants. Maybe even some bright colors.)
The plants on our list will give you tons of delicious leaves and even blooms that you can harvest and, yes, eat. They should all hang in there through your first frost at the very least, though marigolds won’t survive a hard freeze. Many of these plants can grow all winter long in warmer climates.
Excellent Fall Container Plants:
- bok choy
- Swiss chard
- mustard greens
The Best Flowers for Fall:
When you’re shopping for plants, make sure to buy two of everything if you’re planning to make matching planters for your porch.
What About Ornamental Kale?
You’ve probably seen ornamental cabbage and kale being sold at your local nursery. These plants make an excellent addition to any fall garden thanks to their beautiful foliage, and they become even prettier once the temps drop (that’s when their more vibrant colors really begin to show). Keep in mind that even though they are edible, they were bred more for their showy leaves than their flavor. They tend to be a little bitter (and they don’t hold their color well when cooked). You can absolutely add some ornamental kales and cabbages to your edible container garden if you’re after beautiful leaves that will stay on the smaller side.
STEPS TO CREATE EDIBLE PLANTERS FOR THE FALL SEASON
Follow these simple steps to fill your planter with festive foliage and fall flowers just in time for cool weather.
Step One: Grab a Planter
Grab a large pot or container (or two). Make sure whichever planter you pick has at least one good drainage hole since edible plants don’t like sitting in water. I also recommend using something at least 18” in diameter and 12″ deep. If you’re shopping around, I love these wooden planters that look like old wine barrels. For my fall planters, I used some new grow bags from Epic Gardening that I’ve been wanting to try.
Step Two: Add Soil
Go ahead and set your containers in place before filling them. Then, fill your planter almost to the top with a mix of organic potting soil and compost. The potting soil will retain moisture but still provide good drainage for your plants, and the compost is full of nutrients to keep your plants happy till the new year.
If you’re refreshing summer planters, add some compost to the top of the soil to support your new plants.
Step Three: Plant
It’s time to fill your planter with cool-season plants and edible flowers. Start with the focal point, something like kale or Swiss chard that will grow tall and should go near the back. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball of the plant but just a little bit wider, and then slip the plant in. As you add more plants, dig away from the ones you’ve already planted to avoid disturbing their roots. Shorter plants like herbs and low-growing filler flowers like pansies and dianthus are perfect to place around the rim.
Bare soil dries out faster, especially in dry fall weather, so don’t be afraid to fill your container up!
Step Four: Water
Give your plants a nice, deep watering to welcome them to their new home for the fall.
TIPS TO DESIGN YOUR OUTDOOR FALL PLANTERS
You can get really technical about your container designs (some people follow the thriller/filler/spiller rule religiously, for instance), but I just like to make sure I have a good mix of colors and textures. Here are a couple tips to make your edible planter as visually appealing as possible:
Tip Number One: Add Colorful Foliage
This year, I decided to play with purple. I love how purple leaves look with the bluish green of the dinosaur kale, the hot pink of the snapdragon, and the orange of the marigold. You can find several cool-season plants that come in purple varieties, including purple mustard, Red Russian kale, and even purple choi (a type of bok choy).
Tip Number Two: Use a Trailing Herb
I like to plant a trailing herb along the rim so that it’ll drape over the side (that’s what’s meant by a “spiller”). I went with curly parsley, which will flop over more as it fills in, but you could also do trailing rosemary, thyme, or oregano. These might not look quite as dramatic as your more standard spiller like a sweet potato vine, but they’ll give you leaves you can use to season your Thanksgiving meal!
Tip Number Three: Don’t Be Afraid to Fill in Empty Spaces
These plants don’t need to stay in your planter long term, so don’t worry about packing them in. You might feel like you’re planting too close together, but this is how you maximize the visual appeal and ensure you’ll get lots of leafy harvests over the next couple of months.
The plants I included in the list above have similar needs as far as hours of sunlight and water, so they’ll share the space well. Even if you just have a tiny opening, add a chive plant there. It’ll help keep pests away from your planter.
Photo Credit: Julie Estep a member of the Lettuce Grow Something Team
HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR OUTDOOR PLANTERS
These plants are easy-going herbs, flowers, and leafy greens that thrive in cool temperatures, so you won’t need to do much maintenance on your fall planters. Plus, the plants support each other when they’re growing close together and help conserve resources. Here are your few maintenance tasks:
Task Number One: Remove Frost-Sensitive Plants Before First Freeze
I added basil to my fall planter because I still have a good 6 to 8 weeks before my first frost. I’ll be able to get several harvests from the basil before cold weather is in the forecast. Marigolds will likely need to go before a heavy freeze unless you plan to use frost protection for your planter. Hardy perennials like kale and chives can stay throughout the cool growing season and even into the cold season.
Task Number Two: Check the Soil Moisture Frequently
Stick your finger into the soil to check the moisture level, and water when it feels dry about 2 inches down. The larger your container, the longer you’ll be able to go between waterings. You’ll also have to water less often if you packed your plants in. (Bare soil dries out faster, remember?)
Task Number Three: Harvest Regularly
As your plants grow, make sure to harvest outer leaves regularly. This is especially important for those larger kale, Swiss chard, and mustard green leaves. Pinch off spent flowers to encourage new blooms.
How Much Sun Does a Fall Container Garden Need?
These plants all have pretty much the same light requirement (partial shade to full sun). They’ll need at least 4 hours of direct sun a day to produce leaves. You’ll get more blooms from your flowering plants if you can get them 6 hours, which can be hard during the shorter days this time of year.
Find more tips for container gardening.
Enjoy Your Gorgeous Fall Planters!
I hope these fall container garden ideas inspired you to fill your outdoor space with fun fall color and texture. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.