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Can you feel it? That lovely crisp chill in the air, yes fall is here and now it’s time to get your garden ready for fall. It’s a beautiful time of year to work outside the humidity of summer is gone and there are no bugs to drive you crazy while you’re working. A little work now will put your garden in top shape for growing in the spring.
- 1. Pull out all of the dead plants
- 2. Remove any diseased plants or foliage
- 3. Trim back perennial plants that have gone dormant
- 4. Divide perennial plants
- 5. Plant fall flower bulbs, garlic, and walking onions
- 6. Stake young trees and protect them for winter
- 7. Turn over your soil
- 8. Fall is a great time to apply compost to your garden
- 9. Clean and put away your garden tools and equipment
- 10. Prepare new garden beds for spring
- 11. Bonus
1. Pull out all of the dead plants
While it can be sad to pull out plants when it seems like you just planted them a few short months ago it’s for the best. Remove any dead vegetable plants and spent annuals and add them to your compost pile.
2. Remove any diseased plants or foliage
It’s best to either burn these if they are a non-toxic plant or bag them up and take them to your landfill. Composting diseased plants isn’t a good idea because diseases such as blight can be spread back into your garden easily.
3. Trim back perennial plants that have gone dormant
Once your perennial plants have turned yellow or brown it’s time to cut them back. However, if your plants still have leafy green growth then it’s best to just leave them alone and wait until spring to cut back the dead stems. If your perennials have seeds on them and you would like to save the seeds then remove them to save in paper envelopes before cutting back. If you would like to plant them right away scatter the seeds into your flower bed to enjoy next year.
4. Divide perennial plants
Fall is a great time to divide your perennial plants that have become too large and overcrowded. After dividing you can transplant them into your garden and mulch well to protect them from frost and winter freezing. Plant divisions are also great to share with friends to help them grow their gardens!
5. Plant fall flower bulbs, garlic, and walking onions
If you would like a beautiful show of early spring flowers now is the perfect time to plant your flower bulbs including crocus, tulips, and daffodils. Likewise for planting garlic or perennial walking onions. The best time to plant is between mid-October and mid-November depending on your growing zone. You’ll want to do it before the ground freezes and mulch your planting area well to protect the bulbs.
6. Stake young trees and protect them for winter
If you have planted new trees this year and haven’t already staked them it’s best to get it done before winter sets in. Fall can bring very strong winds and young trees that are blown back and forth can suffer from breaking off their roots. This often only happens when they have not yet become establishes. A great tip we learned from a local nursery! Remember when tying trees to a stake not to use rough wire around the trunk. Run the wire through a section of garden hose so that the wire doesn’t cut into the tree bark.
It is also a good idea to protect your tree trunks from rabbits and other animals that love to eat the bark in the winter. We use vinyl tree wrap that easily wraps around the trunk of trees to protect them from rodent damage and weed trimmers. If you have a tree that is already damaged on the trunk using a breathable fabric tree wrap can help protect the trunk and allow healing at the same time.
7. Turn over your soil
While we prefer no-till methods and permaculture if you prefer to till your gardens fall is a great time to do this. Turning your soil in the fall helps to loosen the soil so you can easily remove weed roots. Any that you miss are exposed to the frost and freezing of winter. This weakens and often kills the weeds completely.
8. Fall is a great time to apply compost to your garden
Our favourite way to add compost to our gardens is to sheet mulch the compost on top of our woodchip mulch. The rain quickly washes the compost down through the woodchip mulch making it available to your plants but not disturbing the mulch that you’ve laid down. If you’re not using a permanent mulch in your garden apply 2 to 3 inches of good quality compost on top of your growing beds.
9. Clean and put away your garden tools and equipment
Now that the garden season has come to an end it’s time to put away all the tools you’ve been using during the year. Before storing for the winter take your garden tools and hose off any dirt. Let them dry well and then apply a light coating of oil to protect them from rusting. We like using just normal vegetable oil for this. We’ve used this for years and it works very well! After your tools have been cleaned hang them up to keep them safe and your workshop tidy.
Don’t forget to go through your garden and put away any temporary trellis, netting, tomato cages and any other equipment that could be damaged by the winter snows or tripped on.
10. Prepare new garden beds for spring
Fall is the perfect time of year to make new garden beds to plant next spring! Our favourite method of gardening is inspired by the Back to Eden method. We lay down thick cardboard and if available 6 to 12 inches of compost topped with 4 inches or more of woodchip mulch. Letting this new garden sit over winter makes it just perfect to plant into by spring. If you don’t have access to that much compost you can skip it and just apply the mulch over the cardboard or newspaper.
I know I said 10 tips but I just can’t leave this out it’s my favourite part! Now that your garden is all ready for fall, grab a blanket, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and curl up by the woodstove with your seed catalogs and dream about your garden all winter!
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.