As Rudyard Kipling once said, "Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade." A lot of gardeners see Fall as a time to start putting their gardens to rest. However, as this Fall gardening checklist points out, autumn is the perfect time for assessing, designing, and improving your gardens.
Consider your landscaping. Fall is also a great time to perform grounds and tool maintenance. Perform a soil test; sharpen your garden tools; clean your lawnmower for storage; improve soil, and mulch garden beds for next season. Those little efforts now will help your garden thrive come springtime.
Other Fall To-Do items?
- Stop fertilizing, and water plants less as temperatures start to dwindle.
- In general, to cut back or not to cut back certain plants seems to be a matter of region and preference. Ask a local gardening expert what he or she recommends for your plants.
- Meanwhile, dispose of any diseased or infested plant debris to avoid re-entry of the problem in the Spring.
- One last weeding will help to improve the appearance of your garden throughout the remaining months of autumn. Furthermore, each weed that you eliminate now will prevent possibly hundreds of weeds from sprouting in your garden next spring.
- In many areas, strawberries planted now will be able to yield fruit in October and November. Strawberries produce well for about three years. Other than eating them, your next Fall task will be to replace the old plants with new ones in that 3rd year.
- Take cuttings, if desired, to winter indoors.
- Plant trees and shrubs. Keep these well-watered after planting so they can get used to their new environment before colder weather hits.
- Burlap wrap any plants that would benefit before heavy frosts begin.
- Prune any diseased or stressed tree/shrub limbs, shoots now - while the healthy parts of the plant are more easily differentiated.
- Assess which plants and shrubs have done well in your gardens and which have not. Jot notes down for next season's planning. Take photos of your successes and rough spots. Plan your spring bulb garden now.
- As needed, divide perennials and transplant newly divided bulbs. Try for a mild, overcast day to minimize stress to plants/bulbs.
- Once temps hit 60 degrees, prepare soil beds for and plant Spring-flowering bulbs.
- Cut back flowers that have stopped blooming and/or stop deadheading seed heads early Fall if you want plants to self-sow. Wildflower and ornamental perennial seeds can be harvested and sowed now or within the next couple of months.
- Consider leaving ornamental grasses as-they-are. They make for some lovely landscaping during the bleaker months.
- Rake and clear fallen leaves, fruit, and dried brush.
- Watch for frost warnings; protect/cover plants and vegetables as needed.
- If you have a compost bin or pile, turn it with a pitchfork or garden fork.
- Bring summer houseplants back indoors for the cooler months when nighttime lows drop into the 50's. Outside, spray all plants gently with water to dislodge any unwanted pests; examine plants carefully before bringing them indoors.
- Once you have watered your last outdoor plant and cleaned your garden tools for the season, drain and coil your garden hoses. Put tools, hoses, and portable sprinkler systems in storage.
- Pick herbs to freeze and/or dry. Be sure to take any unripe tomatoes and cukes inside before frost. You can wrap them with newspaper and leave in a cool, dark place to ripen or use them in creative cooking pursuits.
- Reap the harvest of the vegetables and herbs still in your garden. Preserve, puree, can, or freeze, with a smile.
Now that your "chores" are done and the weather is cooler, walk around your yard. Look at the photos of your landscape. Assess what has worked well, what you might like to see in your landscape design. You might want to plan a gazebo, a koi pond, some additional flower beds, or a water garden for next season. Outdoor lighting, retaining walls, patios, decking, and other structures can also be considered on your Fall gardening checklist.