Fall is a very busy season in the garden. Long summers filled with battling garden pests, diseases, and weeds and keeping up with overly-abundant harvests leave me tired. Come fall, I’m ready to slow down, and I might even be fantasizing about lazy snow days.
Even if you feel the same way, make sure you work through this list of fall garden chores first. The crisp weather is nice for gardening chores, and next spring, you’ll be glad you did them.
- Cut back summer-flowering perennials. It’s best to cut them back to basal foliage prior to the first hard frost of the year. Pruning helps prevent diseases and pests from lingering to the next season. If the foliage you cut back is diseased, don’t compost it.
Rake leaves. This is the mack daddy of all fall garden chores. Cut up the leaves with the lawnmower or leaf shredder and use them as mulch for your perennial and vegetable beds. Compost any extras.
- Plant garlic. October is the best time to plant, it’s so easy, and you can grow garlic in pots. And, don’t you want garlic scapes in the spring? Choose seed garlic heads from trusted suppliers like Territorial Seed or plant cloves from varieties obtained from your local farmers market instead of planting supermarket garlic.
- Plant bulbs for spring flowers. Tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and alliums are wonderful for filling in bare spots in perennial beds and are a welcome sight once the snow melts. They should be planted where later-emerging perennials can hide their fading foliage.
- Plant shrubs and new perennials. Fall is a perfect time to plant because the ground is still warm from summer and the weather is cooling, giving plants a gentle environment so they can more easily adapt to their new home. They’ll be established and ready to put on a show in the spring.
Pot up and bring indoors any tender plants you’d like to overwinter. Each year, I bring in at least one rosemary plant and my red-flowered mandevilla. This year, I’ll also try to overwinter my lemon verbena shrub and my bougainvillea.
- Drain and clean rain barrels. By summer’s end, rain barrels can be full of algae and it can clog the spigot and hose. Once you drain out any remaining water you can make necessary repairs.
- Clean up your vegetable beds. Replenish soil and mulch beds with shredded fallen leaves or grass clippings.
- Start a lasagna garden. If you have areas of your lawn that you’d like to convert to growing space for vegetables or perennials, now is the time to get started. By spring, you will have a weed-free spot with the richest soil – all with no digging required!
- Journal about the past season. If you don’t keep meticulous notes throughout the season, at least write up a summary of as much as you can remember including lessons learned, any remarkable experiences with pests or plant diseases, favorite varieties grown, and new ideas for the next year.
- Winterize your irrigation systems. Turn off hoses that are in danger of freezing.