Extend Your Outdoor Living

With the temperatures cooling down, we show you how to extend the season with our kick-off to fall entertaining and gardening.

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Cool Plants for Fall

It's not all bad that summer is winding down: Take advantage of cooler weather (and possibly fewer bugs), and make this September one to remember—outdoors.

True, mums and pansies are natural choices for chillier nighttime temperatures, but are there are colorful alternatives. Try Osteospermum 'Soprano Purple,' cuphea, Mexican bush sage or pot marigold, and that's only the beginning.

Fabulous Fall Fruit

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Add some autumn-producing edibles.

This is a great time to be working outside—harvesting your own fresh veggies and fruit. Gardeners in warmer climates can sow kale and harvest in two months; kale can stand temperatures down to 24 degrees Farenheit or so, and even tastes better after the first frost. Bareroot fruit trees are generally not available until spring, but container-grown trees can go in the ground in fall in many parts of the country.

Masses of Grasses

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Look for the bad boys of ornamental grasses.

For many gardeners, the fall flowers that matter are the ones atop their Miscanthus, switch grass and pampas grass. Try combining grasses that have similar height but slightly different color of plume. Some of the dwarf grasses are great for containers on the deck.

Tip: 'Little Zebra' adds all the movement and sound of its larger cousin but doesn't flop in midseason like so many large zebra grasses (Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus') do.

Tough Turf

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Take care of aerating, seeding and fertilizing.

Gardening by the Yard host Paul James suggests a couple of top lawn care tips for late summer and early fall:

  • Fertilize the lawn with a balanced fertilizer (not a fertilizer high in nitrogen).
  • Don't scalp the lawn, hoping you can save on having to do fewer mowings.

Fall Flowers and Foliage

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Keep gardening in mind when you celebrate football season.

What do Mexican sunflower, Gaillardia 'Fanfare', ageratum and Heuchera 'Obsidian' have to do with football? Everything if your favorite team's colors are orange, red, blue or black. Kick off the fall season with a bit of team spirit in your garden. Let your neighbors know who you're rooting for with a color display of your favorite football team's colors. From flowers and foliage to fruit and fall color, nature can help you support your team.

Tip: Create an easy and colorful arrangement by clipping your favorite coleus (in team colors, of course). Stay in theme by arranging cuttings in a team glass or watertight helmet—change water frequently. Not only do you have an impromptu indoor bouquet for the tailgating table, but you'll get a head start on rooting cuttings for next season's garden.

The Life Outdoors

Enjoy the good life—outdoors and in-style. Lifestyles writer Lourdes Dumke offers four basic tips for creating an outdoor room:

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Get inspired and create an outdoor room.

  1. Create structure. Define your outdoor space with structural elements, such as walls, rugs and ceilings, just like with an indoor room.
  2. Add furnishings. Get creative with outdoor furniture. You can spend a fortune on durable pieces made for the outdoors or go thrifty with flea-market finds. Use paint to add color to furnishings, walls or structures.
  3. Add lighting. Go moonlighting with night lighting in your own backyard. Extend the daytime into the evening and enjoy your nights on the back porch or patio. Go simple with oil lamps or get more involved with professionally-installed lights.
  4. Add accessories. Finish the space by covering the details. Add throw pillows to furnishings or create a bouqet of flowers cut fresh from the garden.

Dining Outdoors

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Cook outdoors in style.

This is not just your grill anymore. Make the most of your outdoor space by bringing the cooking outside.

Tip: Want the luxuries of having an outdoor kitchen but can't afford the high ticket price all at once? Invest in a good grill first, then add the additional items, like a small refrigerator and sink, later.

Playing With Fire

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Add an outdoor fireplace to your backyard.

Incorporate the element of fire into your outdoor autumn plans. From tiki torches and citronella candles to stone fireplaces and movable firepits, draw warmth and lighting from a fire's flames. When nights are cool, extend the season by using outdoor heaters, suggests landscape designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene, Canoga Park, Calif.

Lighting the Landscape

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Take on an outdoor lighting project.

With days getting shorter and nights getting longer, it may feel as though you go to and from work or picking up the kids in the dark. Illuminate the evening hours and extend your time outdoors with lighting. With simple solar lights to more involved lighting systems, the sky's the limit with what you can do.

Tip: Use lights to brighten up pathways while also uplighting and accenting specimen plants or focal points along the way.

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