Gardening in the fall is a great time to look back on your garden successes and disappointments, but there's still plenty of time left for most of us to do some last-minute garden maintenance. Fall gardening takes advantage of cooler temperatures and fewer insects and putting the garden to bed is nowhere near as hectic as waking it up in the spring. You'll have time to really see how your plants are doing.
Here are some tasks to do now in order to make next year's garden even better.
Preserve the Last of Your Fall Garden
Your fall garden might not be producing flowers anymore, but there is still plenty of seeds and herb remnants left. Collect them now to give you a head-start in the spring.
- Collect dried seed from open-pollinated flowers and veggies. You can save it to sow next year or do some strategic self-sowing in other parts of your garden. You might even want to try to expand your skills with winter sowing.
- Gather herbs, seed heads, and flowers for drying. Leave some flowers for the birds, but get a headstart on your garden clean-up by cutting back plants like hydrangea and yarrow and bringing them indoors, for some garden memories.
- Take cuttings now, before a frost turns your plants to mush. It's much easier to bring in small cuttings of plants to over-winter than large pots of mature plants. Plus, they will be easier to transplant outdoors next spring.
Fall is a great time to check cleaning tasks off your garden to-do list. Less time tending to growing plants allows more time to complete the necessary cleaning of your garden.
- Clean bird feeders to get them ready for use. The birds have done a great job of feasting on garden pests and serenading you all summer, now it's time to encourage them to stick around another year.
- Clean out cold frames for winter use. You won't want to do it when the temperature hovers below freezing. Cleaning it out in the fall makes it all the more likely you will put it to use in the spring.
- Clean, sand, and oil garden tools before storing them for the winter. Cleaning your hand pruners is less intimidating than you think.
Prep for Spring
The effort you put in now as you put your garden to bed for the winter will benefit you in the spring by making it easier to get your garden going again.
- Enrich garden beds with compost or manure. Just spread an even layer on any exposed soil. Winter's freezing and thawing, with some extra help from the earthworms, will work it into the soil for you.
- Winterize your water garden. Get ready to turn off the pump and turn on the ice breaker. Don't forget to cover the water garden with netting, to keep the falling leaves out.
- Keep trees and shrubs well watered until the ground freezes. They may look dormant, but they're still alive. If you have a mild, dry winter, continue watering throughout the season. This goes doubly for trees that were planted this year.
- Cut back most perennials. Definitely cut back diseased perennials and remove all foliage and dispose of it somewhere other than the compost.