It’s that time of year again, at least for most of the country. Frost is looming (if not already here) and it’s time to do a final clean up in the garden. Below I’ve listed some of the top tasks to consider in order to protect your garden from the winter and to prepare it for the spring.

Autumn Garden Tasks

Evaluate the Garden

It’s time to walk through the garden with a notebook and takes notes about what worked for you this year and what didn’t. Look at which plants needed more sun or shade, where you may need to build a privacy screen of ivy or bushes, decide on what colors you liked and what you’d add next year. And don’t forget to evaluate the veggie and herb gardens!

Remove Annuals from Containers and Beds

It’s time to clean out (and wash and store away) containers holding your annuals. It’s also time to pull these favorite plants from the beds. Either compost the healthy plants or dispose of the diseased plants. For ease, this chore really should be done before the first frost. If you have any herbs in pots, now is a good time to cut them and bring them in for drying.

Plant Fall Trees, Shrubs, & Perennials

There is still time to plant fall trees, shrubs, and perennials. As long as the soil is still warm enough, now is a good time to take advantage of sales at local nurseries to fill in holes in your landscaping. You need good six weeks from planting to the first freeze in order to give the roots a chance to get established.

Plant Spring Bulbs

Fall is the best time to plant all of your spring bulbs like daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips. This time of year, the garden centers are full of different varieties of bulbs. So you have tons to choose from. Just make sure you plant them before the first frost!

Cut Back Perennials

Not every perennial needs to be cut back in the fall, but once the plants have gone dormant it’s time to clean out dead foliage from the garden beds. Shrubs shouldn’t be cut back in the fall, and here’s a list of perennials that also should NOT be cut back now.

  • Evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials (Dianthus, Phlox, etc.)
  • Perennials with woody stems (Lavender, Buddleia, etc.)
  • Perennials that offer interest during the winter (ornamental grasses and onions, etc.)

Dispose of Diseased Foliage

While compost piles are great, they don’t generate enough heat to kill the pathogens that infect plants with diseases. The best way to deal with diseased plants it to cut them down, bag them up, and dispose of them in the trash. Otherwise, next year, you’ll be dealing with the same disease issues and they could even spread.

Bring in Outdoor Plants

Now is the time to bring in the last of the fall flowers, berries, and leaves to decorate your house. Hydrangeas, Rose Hips, and ornamental grass plumes make for a beautiful addition to your inside decor.

Water the Garden

Even though it’s getting colder out, roots are still growing, especially those newer plants you’ve added to the garden. So if you’ve not had enough fall rain, keep watering the garden until all the plants go dormant and the ground begins to freeze. During this time of year, the best way to water is to water deeply once a week and watch the weather for freeze warnings.

Rake & Mulch

Leaves that haven’t been shredded take a long time to break down and can carry mold that will last until the spring. So rake up those leaves! And if you have a leaf shredder, shred the leaves and mulch your garden beds. If you don’t want to use leaf mulch, consider other kinds of mulch for your more sensitive plants and newer plantings.

Protect Sensitive & New Plants

Once your plants have gone dormant, you may need to mulch over or use evergreen branches to protect certain sensitive plants. This is especially true if some of your plants are not quite adapted for your hardiness zone as well as for new plantings that may not have established roots yet.

Clean & Put Away Gardening Tools

Once all of you outdoor chores are done for the season, wash and dry all of your tools and put them away neatly. That way, when spring comes again, you’ll be all set to work in the garden again.

Plan for Next Year’s Garden

Once all the chores are done and the tools are put away, I love to sit down with a cup of tea and review the notebook I worked at the top of this page. I reevaluate my notes about what worked and what didn’t work. And then I begin considering what I want to do for next year’s garden and order any seed or plant catalogs I think I may need for my spring planting.


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