Fall Garden Tasks and Tips
As with many, fall is my favorite time of the year. Something about frosty mornings and warm afternoons just makes me feel comfortable and cozy. It seems like time slows down a bit and you can actually enjoy doing something in the yard and garden without being rushed.
Flower Beds and Pots
As the temperatures cool and the annual flowers begin to fade, now is the time to remove them from the garden and your flower pots. Disease-free plants can go into the compost pile along with the potting soil from the planters. Always dispose of any diseased plants in the trash or burn pile. Clean and store the flower pots for next season.
Cut back your fading perennials and divide as needed. Lift any bulbs or tubers that are not cold hardy to your zone. There are a few plants that I like to keep, for aesthetics, in the garden. Ornamental grasses and seed heads on sedum or purple coneflower make for interesting focal points in a winter time landscape.
The vegetable garden should be cleared of all spent plants and raked clean. Fall is a great time to spread compost over the garden. Some people like to till the garden in the fall, if you do, you can till in the compost or top it off after you till and cover with a layer of mulch. This can reduce weeds and make less work in the Spring when you are anxious to get started in the garden again. Planting a cover crop is another great way to enhance your soil.
A great way to get rid of fallen leaves is to rake them up into your lawn and chop them up on the final grass cutting of the year. This mulch can be spread over the flower beds and gardens or, if finely ground, spread over the lawn. The mulch will protect plants or lawns from the cold temps by keeping soil temperatures warmer, retaining moisture as well as provide nutrients for the next growing season. Fall is a great time for fertilizing with high nitrogen (N), no phosphorus (P), low potassium (K) fertilizer. Cool-season grasses, such as Bluegrass, Ryegrass, and Fescues, benefit from a late-season (Oct/Nov) application.
As a note, as you approach the final grass cutting of the year, lower the mower height each time for a closer cut. (Be sure to follow the recommended height for your grass type.) This will allow more sunlight to penetrate to dry out the turf between rain and snow showers.
Warm-season grasses, such as Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda or Zoysia, need to harden-off for their dormant season, so the last fertilizer application should be September.
Be sure to winterize your irrigation system(s) before freezing temperatures! This is extremely important, as water increases in mass by approximately 11% as it freezes. Hoses, pipes, and tubing, as well as sprinklers, can crack or split if the water is left undrained. See our Winterizing Instructions for help.
Your trees and shrubs will benefit from a deep watering in the fall. Once the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees you can use your garden hose and give your trees and shrubs a good watering over the entire root zone. Then make sure you drain and store the garden hose until springtime.