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Fall Gardening Tips

Fall Gardening Tips

A handy list of tips and tasks to get your garden ready for winter.

Fall is here and that means it's time to prepare your landscape for its winter rest. Check out this handy list of tips and tasks that will help you get your garden in good shape before the freezing days of winter set in:

Pull or dig up summer annuals (plants that won't return next spring). Place the plants into your compost pile or bag with other yard and garden waste for pickup. If any plants were showing signs of disease, it is best not to put them into your compost.

Perennials will return again next spring. These plants can be cut down to within 2 to 3" above soil level and the cuttings discarded with your annuals. Late season perennials that are still going strong can be left until finished flowering and then cut back later on.

Some perennials, such as ornamental grasses or coneflowers, add beauty to the winter landscape and provide shelter for wildlife. For those reasons you may want to leave some of these untrimmed, just be sure to cut them back in early spring before the new growth starts.

Move any potted or hanging plants that you want to keep indoors. Containers are especially vulnerable to the first fall freezes. The soil can quickly freeze and kill the plants.

Clean and store any planters that you won't be using again until spring. Discard the soil and clean the planters with mild soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly before storing.

Mulching after cleanup will give your plants an edge for next spring. In regions that don't receive much insulating snow cover, a layer of mulch in autumn can help protect from unpredictable temperature fluctuations. Mulch also helps retain water, enriches the soil, and should help reduce weeds in the spring.

Harvest all fruits and vegetables and clean up any that have fallen on the ground as these can lead to unwelcome pests and diseases.

Dig up tender summer bulbs such as Dahlias, Gladiolas and Cannas. Cut off the foliage and store the bulbs in a well-ventilated box or bag placed in a cool, dry location.

Now is the time to plant bulbs that will flower in the spring such as tulips, hyacinth, crocuses and daffodils.

This is a great time to divide perennial plants. Dividing plants in the fall allows them to develop stronger root systems that will be ready to survive the heat and stress of summer the following season.

Fall is also a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The autumn air may turn cold but the ground temperature can stay warm for quite some time. As long as the ground stays warm, roots can continue to grow even if the top of a tree or shrub is dormant. Allowing the time to establish a sturdy root system will give your new plant a great head-start in the spring.

Keep leaves raked and off the lawn. If allowed to sit they can deprive your lawn of light and moisture.

Clean and maintain your gardening tools. Remove any excess soil or dirt and store them in a dry place. Don't forget to run the water out of your garden hoses and store them in a dry place for the winter.

Identify any roses, trees, shrubs or vines that need pruning. Wait to prune until the plants have lost their leaves and gone dormant for the winter.

If you want to provide a winter refuge for small wildlife you can put off your fall clean-up until early spring. Leaving dead plants and leaf litter in some garden areas through the winter can create hibernation spaces for small animals. Dried flower heads with seeds can offer a nutritious food source. Dried plant parts, stems and grasses are excellent nesting materials for birds in the spring. Just remember that all clean-up needs to take place early in the spring, so as not to interfere with your plants new spring growth.