Fall Gardening Checklist
By Kassi Kuppinger
October 14, 2020
Even though we entered into the fall season over three weeks ago, this week it is finally starting to actually feel like fall. The leaves are turning all sorts of colors, from vibrant yellows and reds, to deep shades of purple, and winds are starting to pick up, pushing out the warm air of summer and bringing in the cool air of winter.
With this noticeable shift in the seasons, here are some reminders of things you should be doing to make sure everything from your annual flower pots, to your trees and shrubs, to your tools and machinery are taken care of and ready for next spring.
Plant Your Bulbs
Many spring-blooming bulbs such as Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus, Irises and so many more are best planted in late September and October. So head into our Garden Center and pick out some of your favorite spring colors and get them planted before the ground freezes.
Dig Up Tender Bulbs
Certain more tropical bulbs and tubers such as Cannas, Dahlias, and Caladiums may have a difficult time withstanding the freezing temperatures of winter. To make sure that you do not lose them entirely, dig them up soon after the trees being to change colors. These bulbs can be stored in a cool, dry place and replanted next spring!
Cut Back Perennials
Once your perennials have died off for the season, cutting back any dead growth will prepare the plants for a strong comeback in the spring. Certain varieties can be left standing throughout the winter, such as Black Eyed Susans, Echinacea, or ornamental grasses. However they will need to be cut back in the spring to make way for new growth. If you have more questions on which perennials to cut back, and which ones to leave for the winter, let us know! We are happy to help.
Divide Mature Perennials
Certain perennials will benefit from being divided if they are beginning to get overcrowded. Daylilies, Irises, and Hostas are just a couple plants that can be divided. Now you have even more lovely flowers that you can either plant elsewhere, or gift to a friend or neighbor!
Protect Sensitive Plants
Make sure your plants survive throughout the winter! If you have new perennials that were planted this year, covering the plant with a 4-5 inch layer of mulch will help protect it from the cold by keeping it out of direct contact with snow and ice. Doing the same with other cold-sensitive plants will benefit them greatly. Similarly, protect your roses by placing a rose collar around the base of the plant and filling the collar with leaves or some type of insulator until the whole plant is covered. This will protect them throughout the cold season, making sure they come back stronger and even more beautiful the following year!
Empty Porch Pots and Flower Containers
The long winter months can prove to have a brutal affect on certain porch pots and annual containers. Terra cotta pots are especially susceptible to the freeze and thaw cycle, often sustaining chips and cracks that will only get worse with time. Protect your terra cotta by storing them in a dry place, such as a shed or garage. If you do not have the extra space to pull them all indoors, empty the pots and store them upside-down against the side of your house. Be sure to cover them with a tarp, as this will help greatly in keeping moisture off of them!
Rake Your Leaves
While raking leaves may feel like an endless task, with fresh layers piling up on the ground minutes after raking the current mess, letting leaves sit on your lawn for too long will not make for a happy yard. Staying on top of raking, even if that means doing just a little bit every day, will make the job seem much less daunting, and will also take a load off your lawn!
Plant Grass Seed or Lay Sod
Believe it or not, the fall season provides the perfect conditions to establish a new lawn, or simply repair your current lawn. The warm sun and cool air help take some stress off a new lawn, and with a bit of moisture, it will thrive. Just make sure to lay your sod or spread your grass seed before the ground begins to freeze so your grass has a chance to really establish its roots before winter is in full swing.
Clean Out Veggie Garden Beds
Be sure to clear your garden beds of any plant debris that may be left over from the growing season. Often times, pests and diseases can survive in layers of debris left to sit and rot under the snow all winter long. If this occurs, these pests and diseases can come back even stronger the following spring. So, once all your greens begin to die off, add them to your compost pile!
Add Compost to Your Soil
Once your compost pile is ready, spread a 2-3 inch layer over your garden beds! This will enrich the soil throughout the winter, as moisture and organisms in the soil will break it down further, making sure your soil is full of nutrients and ready for planting in the spring! Read more about composting here.
Plant Cover Crops
Planting cover crops in the fall, such as clover or peas, will help protect your garden from the forces of nature. Different cover crops serve different purposes such as adding nitrogen to the soil, protecting your soil from erosion, or fighting pests that might have made a home in your garden. For help figuring out which cover crops are best suited to your garden, contact us! We are happy to help!
Prune Your Trees
Wait to prune your trees until the leaves have fallen. At this point, your trees will be in a state of dormancy, and will not attempt any new growth following pruning.
Pruning your trees in the fall will help your trees, as it will encourage them to focus their energy on sustaining different parts of the tree, rather than sustaining branches all winter long that may just end up pruned the following spring.
Pruning your trees in the fall will also give you a chance to identify possible problem branches. Especially under the weight of a heavy winter snow, branches that are damaged or unhealthy may give out, often causing more damage than if the limb had been pruned.
Water Your Trees and Shrubs
Winter conditions are harsh and dry, so watering your trees plenty while they are still actively soaking up water will help them store up all the moisture they will need to make it through the dry winter months. Providing them with extra moisture will also help them come back faster and stronger in the spring!
Drain Hoses and Winterize Irrigation Systems
Any water left in irrigation lines, sprinkler systems, or garden hoses will prove to be detrimental once freezing temperatures roll in. So be sure to disconnect any hoses and winterize any irrigation systems to avoid having to deal with cracked pipes in the spring.
Prepare Your Tools For Next Season
I assure you that as soon as spring rolls back around, you are going to be itching to get back to your gardening. The last thing you are going to want to do is deal with worn or defective tools because you didn’t care for them properly at the last season’s end.
So take some time to clean off your gardening tools. The metal ends of trowels, hand rakes, and other tools can even be placed in a bucket of sand mixed with vegetable oil to avoid rusting and keep them in good shape all winter.
After a long season, it is likely that your pruners could use some attention as well. Sharpen these with a metal file and coat with a little vegetable oil to prevent rusting, and your pruners will be ready to go at the first sign of spring.
Don’t forget about your lawn mowers and garden tillers! Be sure to always keep up on oil changes as needed to ensure they stay in good working condition. When you are done using them for the season, drain gas lines and store in dry, covered space for the winter.
Send Us Your Questions!
As always, we are happy to help! So if you have any questions at all, let us know! You can contact us by filling out a contact form, you can give us a call (970-488-5022), or you can come into the store! We hope to see you soon!
American Meadows. “Fall Garden Maintenance Checklist.” Web. Date Accessed 13 October 2020. Retrieved from https://www.americanmeadows.com/blog/2015/09/16/fall-garden-maintenance-checklist
Hughes, Megan. “Follow This Fall Garden Checklist to Get Your Yard Ready for Winter.” Better Homes & Gardens. 7 August 2020. Web. Date Accessed: 13 October 2020. Retrieved from https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/fall-garden-checklist/