With the busy growing season coming to an end, completing fall garden chores may be the last thing on our minds. However, by creating a fall garden chore list and sticking to it will have your gardens thanking you come spring.
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Lord knows I’ve been there. Starting in January with ordering the seeds and supplies & planning the upcoming garden season, starting the seedlings come February into March, & planting the spring garden weather depending once the soil can be worked is busy in of itself. Nevermind nurturing that labor of love throughout the season by watering, weeding, & tending it only to morph right into the harvesting, canning, and preserving stage that comes late summer into early fall. It’s enough to cause anyone pause & want a break.
As with most things in life, proper planning & care will set us up for success. Our garden beds are no different. By creating & completing a few fall garden chores not only allows your bed to breath a sigh of relief as it’s put to rest for the winter, but also offers a jump start on your spring gardening & help to prevent poor performance.
WHEN TO CLEAN UP YOUR GARDEN
As with most things garden related, when to begin the fall cleanup of your garden largely depends on your location, or gardening zone. If you don’t already know your zone, you can easily look up yours below.
By determining your zone, you can then create a comprehensive fall gardening chore list that is personalized & appropriate for your garden.
As frosty weather can arrive anytime come September in my zone, planning and completing the fall gardening chores begins largely during this time period. When to begin your fall cleanup depends not only on your weather (zone) but also with what plantings & gardening features you may have.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR FALL GARDEN
So what should be included with your fall gardening checklist? Let’s break it down.
PLANTING IN THE FALL
Fall is a wonderful time to plant in our landscaping, flower, and vegetable beds.
If you know what you are adding to next year’s landscaping and flower beds, now is a great time to plant them. For my zone, that means the end of August & early September.
By planting shrubs, some perrenials, and trees in the fall, you will be able to take advantage of the many sales nurseries offer as they are trying to reduce their stock. It’s also a time to take advantage of the cooler conditions while the soil remains fairly warm. While you’re at it, you may want to take advantage of these sales further by purchasing any soil, amendments, and mulches you may need for the upcoming growing season!
Don’t need to purchase any plants? Be sure to take note of the ones you already have growing and expand the garden by dividing and transplanting those summer flower varieties!
And did I mention no bugs? While your in the garden during the fall months there are typically no bugs to deal with which only adds to the pleasure of fall gardening 🙂
Planting & dividing in the early fall ensures the root systems of these plants will have a good headstart before going into dormancy for the upcoming winter months.
My favorite source which I highly recommend for all your cover crop seeds and supplies is True Leaf Market. I find their germination rates to be above average, cost effective, and reliable.
Think ahead to spring blooms! Fall is when you plant most of your flowering bulbs, crocus, tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinths which all make for a spectacular spring display. It’s also the time to dig up those bulbs, dahlia’s, gladiolas, and any other temperature sensitive bulbs to store for the coming winter.
HARVESTING & PRESERVING THE LAST OF YOUR GARDEN
It’s time to save seed from any vegetables or flowers you are wanting to save for growing in the spring or to sow in another area of your beds you are wanting to expand. Need some organizational suggestions? Be sure to visit my “Organizing & Storing Leftover Garden Seeds”.
Extending much of your harvest with a little frost protection using either hay/mulch & covers or possibly even both is easy to do and will prolong your growing season substantially.
Harvest cold hardy root vegetables (carrots, beets, etc) after the first frost, and squash, potatoes and the like before the first frost.
In the herb beds, you can harvest & dry what you will need access to for the winter months. It’s also the time to take cuttings from those plants which will not over-winter such as rosemary. Root them in water & plant indoors to really get a head start on next years herb beds.
When creating your fall garden chore checklist, don’t forget about the cleanup. It’s one job I’ve always found to be a bit tedious, but it’s one that is essential to your ongoing garden health.
FALL GARDEN CLEANUP (VEGETABLE GARDEN)
Pick up any fallen fruit. You know those cherry tomatoes that fall and rot, or the apples that you’ve not yet picked up. Fallen fruit left untended can lead to disease & pest issues. No thank you!
Cut near the soil level any vegetable plants that need removing and compost or discard. Leave the tender roots in the soil to decompose and nourish the soil. Large roots that have not decomposed properly can be discarded if need be during next years planting.
Weed any beds that need weeding. Leaving existing weeds in the soil just creates more of, well, weeding next year 😉
Have your soil tested. Determine what it may need. Add a good dose of compost to the soil preparing it for planting in the spring.
Rake, gather, and mulch your leaves to cover, insulate, and compost in the veggie beds.
FALL GARDEN CLEANUP (PERRENIAL, FLOWER & BEDS)
Cut back any flowering perrenials you wish (or leave to self sow as I do with my calendula, dill, and cilantro each year). Deadhead any flowering buds on those plants that don’t require cutting back. Or be like the lazy gardener that I am and leave to self-sow, feed the wildlife during the winter months, and create winter interest in the garden 😉
Take pictures or mark in your gardening journal while fresh in your mind of where things are growing, what you would like to see for next years garden, and any changes you have or are planning to make.
Weed any beds that need it.
FALL GARDEN CLEANUP (LANDSCAPE)
Cut the lawn one last time prior to frost. Reseed if needed, & fertilize to feed for the winter months to come.
Rake & gather fallen leaves off lawns and beds. Mulch if so desired to add as insulation on any plants or shrubs that may need it. Optionally, add some mulched leaves to your compost pile for a good dose of brown matter, and leave the rest for harboring beneficials such as ladybugs & native pollinators 🙂
Prepare burlap covers or plank covers for shrubs, greenery, and any trees that are susceptible to wind burn, cold, and even deer & forest animal browsings.
Utilize rose cones or deeply mulch the base of any rose bushes.
FALL GARDEN CLEANUP (HARDSCAPES, FEATURES, & TOOLS)
Don’t neglect any hardscape or features you may have in your garden. Clean, cover, or bring in out of the elements any pots, furniture, statues, & breakable garden art that wouldn’t appreciate being exposed to harsh winter storms.
Wash and store any bird feeders that you are not planning on leaving out for the winter months. Instead, think of some unique diy treats you can make for our woodland friends to enjoy throughout the winter.
Should you be so fortunate to have a water feature, prepare & winterize before a hard frost.
Winterize outdoor water spouts by draining thoroughly & cleaning or wiping them down if necessary. Drain and put away any outdoor hoses.
Winterize the tools of the trade. Sharpen, oil and put away your gardening tools clean and ready for use in the spring. Winterize small engine machinery & implements such as mowers to store safely during falling temperatures.
SHOULD YOU TILL YOUR GARDEN IN THE FALL
Well, full disclosure here, I am a no till gardener. Why? Because it erodes the soil, disrupts the beneficial microbiome of the soil, and is not so friendly to my garden loving worms etc. In addition like I’ve mentioned, I am a lazy gardener and like to let nature take care of itself without my added inputs 😉
As a no till gardener, I can recommend that you turn in any compost or brown matter such as mulched leaves under just the top several inches of soil by simply using a shovel or fork. My favorite amendment to add in the fall? Seaweed! Read more about the wonders of this ocean gift to all gardeners in my article “Using Seaweed In The Garden”.
Is there anything else I don’t recommend doing in the fall? Yup! I don’t recommend pruning your flowering bushes like lilacs and viburnum as you may be removing the flowering buds off of next years growth. How sad would that be?
GARDEN MANAGEMENT PLANNER
My best suggestion for completing your fall garden chores? Journal. Writing down what worked, what didn’t, what you would like to do different or the same during your next growing season may be the best kept secret of gardening success.
I always seem to think, “Oh, I will remember where I planted that” or how many Sungold tomato plants I planted, planning & scheduling garden chores no matter the season, or even remembering what challenges the growing season presented. Trust me. You won’t.
By creating a gardening journal, or what I like to call, my gardening management planner, makes it easy to track, plan, schedule, and refer back to year-to-year. Don’t have time to create, from scratch your own? I’ve done the work for you!
My beautifully crafted printable Garden Management Planner contains all you need! And did I mention how pretty they are?
With a little time & effort, creating your fall garden chore list and completing those fall garden chores, you can rest assured that your spring gardening efforts will run a bit more smoothly.
Have I missed any fall garden chores?
Love, Light, & Laughter ~