Fall is an excellent time for homeowners to examine their gardens and prepare them for the cooler temperatures to come. Although you may think of gardening only during the summer months, caring for your garden during the fall can help it survive the winter season and produce a healthy crop next year.
Whether you’re growing a vegetable garden, flower bed or even trees and shrubs, these fall garden maintenance tips will ensure your entire landscape is ready for temperatures to drop.
1. Clean Up Vegetable/Herb Gardens
If you’re not sure where to begin on your fall garden maintenance checklist, the best place to start is by removing all dried plants and weeds in your garden bed. Keeping such plants in your garden over the winter could lead to pests and disease, thus preventing a healthy garden next year. For this reason, be on the lookout for any spent crops, as well as plants that are infested with disease. Tilling your garden is an excellent way to expose any dried plants or weeds. It will also reveal any pests hiding in your garden, including fall armyworms, which are most active during the fall.
As you remove plant debris from your garden, now is also an excellent time for removing gardening supplies. Items such as stakes, cages and labels should be gathered and put away to be used again next spring.
2. Prepare Your Perennial Garden for Winter
Although the gardening season may be coming to a close, your perennial plants will continue growing until they go dormant in late fall. To prepare them for the colder temperatures, be sure to remove all weeds and any parts of the plant infested with disease or pests. If you’re planning on adding more plants to your garden, consider planting spring-blooming bulbs this fall while the soil is still warm.
Don’t forget to continue watering your perennials at least once a week until the ground freezes. Once the ground does freeze, cover the crown of your newly planted perennials with a 4 to 5-inch layer of bark mulch. This mulch may also be used to cover perennials that are sensitive to frost.
3. Care for Trees and Shrubs
For those who have trees and shrubs, autumn is the perfect season to check on your shrubbery and prepare them for winter. One way to care for your trees this fall is to cover the soil around them with mulch. Adding a fresh layer of mulch around the base of your tree will protect the roots from harsh winter conditions. Avoid covering the trunk with mulch, however, as this could cause rot and other diseases. In addition to mulching, fall is also an ideal time to prune your shrubs once dormancy has started.
If you’re looking to establish more trees and shrubs on your lawn, fall is the best time to plant while the ground is still workable. Generally, the ideal time to plant new trees is 6 weeks before the first sign of hard frost. Planting anytime between September through November will allow your new trees to establish their roots before winter sets in.
4. Plant a Cover Crop
A cover crop may be spread over your garden to prevent erosion and weed growth. It may consist of mustard, clover, peas or even a combination of cover crops. Once spring arrives, the cover crop may be turned over to add nutrients to the soil.
5. Plant Fall Crops
While the summer growing season may be over, there are still many plants you can grow over the winter. The most common frost-tolerant crops for fall planting include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, parsnips, garlic, cabbage, collards and spinach. Many of these crops not only grow well during the fall, but they taste better after a light frost. Be sure to cover your plants as soon as any frost is forecasted to ensure your garden survives the winter.
6. Apply Fall Pre-Emergents
Pre-emergent weed killers are used for controlling weeds before they appear above the ground. To promote a weed-free garden next year, consider applying fall pre-emergents to your garden once all plant debris is removed.
Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer$16.95 – $19.95
Crabgrass Control Plus 0-0-7 with 0.37% Prodiamine Herbicide$54.95
7. Apply Fall Fertilizer
Similar to fall lawn care, many gardens and trees can benefit from fertilizer before winter sets in. Fall fertilizer is best applied in late fall before the first frost, as it will help plants endure the approaching cold temperatures.
Sod University recommends two different fertilizer options for the fall; however, you will only need to use one of the two options for fall fertilization. The Lawnifi® Fall Fertilizer Box, in particular, has three separate bottles of liquid fertilizer in it that help your garden recover from the hot summer temperatures it just endured as well as prepare for the colder temperatures ahead. This product is a great fall fertilizer for lawns and gardens.
If you prefer traditional, granular fertilizers, Lawnifi Foundation is a slow-release granular fertilizer option that comes in a 25-pound bag and lasts for three months. With a 29-0-5 NPK formulation, Lawnifi Foundation is the perfect granular fertilizer for lawns and gardens. The two percent iron included in Lawnifi Foundation’s mixture helps plants carry oxygen throughout the leaves, roots and other parts of the plants to promote a green, healthy yard.
Following these simple fall garden maintenance tips will help your plants survive the cold temperatures of winter. Whether you plan on growing a cool season crop, or you simply want to protect your garden, this fall garden checklist will ensure a healthy, thriving garden next spring.