I’ve shared with you plenty of fall garden tips over the past several weeks, but I’d like to repeat a few that are worth mentioning again. The cold snap that’s hit most of the United States arrived her this morning, and I’m glad I took part of yesterday off to tackle many of my own fall gardening tasks. If you haven’t already done so, take a few minutes today to finish preparing your garden for the fall.
Fall Garden Clean Up
- This is your last chance to bring any plants indoors that you want to save for next spring.
- Houseplants should be brought indoors now. Don’t let them get cold – some may never recover from the shock!
- Cut back the dead flowers stalks on your perennials and clean up any dead leaves. Many insects spend the winter snuggled under dead leaves, so by raking, bagging and tossing old leaves, you reduce the population of “bad bugs”.
- Save seeds! Echinacea (coneflower), marigolds, and many other flowers produce seeds that are easy to harvest and save. Use the silicon packets from new pairs of shoes to keep seeds dry. Place the closed packet inside a paper envelope, add the seeds, and store in a cool, dark place. Never store seeds in plastic containers. Any leftover moisture can encourage mold to grow on the seeds if they’re stored in enclosed plastic containers.
- Empty, clean and store all terra cotta and ceramic pots. Water that freezes inside them will find its way into the tiny pores in natural stone and through the freezing and thawing action, cause them to crack.
- Empty bird baths, clean them with a mild bleach solution to disinfect them, dry them and store in your garage, shed or basement.
- Empty fountains, clean them, and store them.
- Hang bird feeders now and fill with seed. Keep them filled throughout the winter.
- Harvest the last of the fall vegetables. Leeks, onions and garlic should be harvested and stored indoors. Broccoli and parsnips benefit from a frost; frost creates sweeter vegetables. But don’t let them stay outside too long. If they freeze solid, they’ll end up ruined.
- Turnips, beets and late carrots can stay in the ground until a prolonged freeze is expected.
- Don’t forget to plant your tulips and other spring bulbs now, before the ground freezes solid.
- Add mulch around your perennials to prevent heaving. Heaving is when the freezing and thawing action of the ground pushes up the soil, which in turn pushes up the plants. This can unintentionally expose the roots and kill your perennials.
The picture above was taken last week. The flowers in my window boxes continue to bloom, especially the pansies, so I’ll leave them alone until the frost finally kills them. I’ve brought in all the geraniums I wish to save, and now it’s just a matter of keeping up with the yard work – cutting back all the perennials, weeding while the ground is still soft enough to pull identifiable weeds, and mulching the rest of the garden. I harvested the leeks yesterday, and will probably take in as many of the beets and turnips as I can over the weekend. We’re really entering that time of year when the garden sleeps and I can turn my attention to the indoor plants and my indoor hobbies.
For more tips on what to do in the garden this fall, see the November gardening task list on Home Garden Joy.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.