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As temperatures dip, the cooler weather serves as a reminder that now is the time to tidy up the garden and prep for winter. Fall, with its warm days and chilly nights, provides the perfect opportunities to enjoy puttering in the garden and dreaming of next spring.
Use this handy fall checklist for the garden, to make sure your backyard paradise fares well over the winter. The reward is a beautiful outdoor space when spring arrives.
Fall Checklist for the Garden
[ ] Plant bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees for spring color.
Fall is an excellent time to plant for spring blooms. Check out this post for a list of plants that do well with a fall planting.
[ ] Divide perennials such as hostas, irises, day lilies, sedum, coneflowers, shasta daisies and canna lilies.
Most perennials can be divided every two to three years or whenever they show signs of overcrowding. Dig up plant and using a sharp shovel, divide the root ball into two or more sections. Replant extra perennials in a new location and water well. Or, better yet, share your perennials with others. A perennial exchange is a great way to acquire new plants for free!
[ ] Add fall color in the garden and on the deck or front porch.
For pops of earthy color, add mums, pumpkins and gourds. Create an eye catching entry with groupings of fall flowers and pumpkins on the front porch or near the front door. This is a great way to extend color well into the season, even as flowers in the garden fade away.
[ ] Note expected first frost date and prepare to bring containers indoors.
Use this frost map to see when the first hard frost is expected in your area. Those amazing container gardens you created last spring? Make space indoors for any that will winter inside. Keep the flowers in a sunny location, trim back spent blooms and leaves, and water as needed and you’ll have containers ready to go back outdoors next spring.
[ ] Rake leaves.
If you have an abundance of trees then raking leaves is a necessary garden task in the fall. Beyond creating mounds of leaves for the kids to jump into, leaves can provide mulch for the garden. Mow over the raked up leaves, with a bag attached to the mower, or use a grinder to create mulch. The leaf mulch returns vital nutrients to the soil.
[ ] Start a compost.
Use those leaves, grass clippings and garden trimmings to create a compost. Food scraps, newspapers and yard and garden waste combine, creating the perfect environment for earthworms and bacteria, which turns the waste into valuable compost for next year’s garden. Make your own bin or purchase one and fill it up. Regularly turn the contents to maintain the proper mixture and distribute heat.
[ ] Prepare new beds for spring planting.
Now is the time to plan and lay out new beds for next spring. Prep the ground by clearing any weeds or grass in the area and spade to a depth of at least a foot. Smooth dirt and let the new bed rest over the winter. It’s much easier to plant next spring when the ground is prepped in advance.
[ ] Tidy up the garden.
This task on the fall checklist for the garden is the biggie. As plants die down, trim perennials and herbs to the ground. Pull weeds. Harvest and store flower seeds. Remove dead branches from bushes, shrubs and trees. Do not prune rose bushes or butterfly bushes until next spring however. And leave ornamental grasses until spring as well. The grasses will turn brown and yet they are still pretty to look at over the winter and provide seeds and shelter for birds. After tidying the garden, lay down a good layer of mulch.
[ ] Clean and store garden tools.
Use soapy water and a wire brush to clean dirt from garden tools. Apply a lightweight vegetable oil to metal to prevent rusting. Sharpen blades on shovels, trowels and hoes. Store tools out of the weather.
[ ] Clean and store containers.
Check and clean containers that are not going indoors for the winter. Remove dead plants and inspect for cracks or breaks in the containers. Also check garden décor and statues for needed repairs. I leave most of my statures and décor in the garden over the winter, for interest. However, it is a good time to toss anything that has succumbed to time and weather. I have vintage wooden chairs that my grandfather made that are being repurposed into new works of art. And another old wooden chair that I bought several years ago at a flea market is destined for the trash bin.
Using a Fall Checklist for the Garden Creates an Easier Checklist for Spring
This fall checklist for the garden is for me, as much as anyone! I have a great deal of prep work to do in my garden, after above average rainfall this summer. Plus, focusing on the blogs this year and a trip to Scotland in July means my garden is more wild than usual this fall.
I look forward, in the upcoming weeks, to the tidying up process. The garden is resilient, adaptive and ever changing. In spite of its wild and unkept appearance…now…a little care this fall will return it to its splendor next spring. Time in the garden is time well spent. The returns are a hundredfold, for me and for my backyard paradise.
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