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The Front Porch Blog

Education on all things homeownership

Fall Garden Cleanup Checklist

November 03, 2021 Blog, Lifestyle
Woman and boy in a yard, holding rakes as they pile leaves into a wheelbarrow

Find out which chores to skip, which are must-dos, and how to keep your garden looking beautiful in the fall.

Most of us amateur gardeners are ready to call it quits when the first frost hits—after all, we've spent the summer planting, watering, weeding, and pruning to keep our yards looking gorgeous. But fall has a few more to-dos to keep your garden beautiful. Read on for what should be on your to-do list (as well as a few chores you really don't need to worry about).

Fall Cleanup Must-Dos

  • Cut down early blooming perennials and any plants you don't want self-seeding all over the garden
  • Cut back peonies, bulbs, and irises
  • Deadhead plants like rudbeckias and columbine that might spread too many seeds throughout the garden
  • Amend soil by adding topsoil or compost
  • Mulch to create an extra layer of insulation for the winter
  • Dig up/harvest all remaining vegetables and bring indoors to ripen on the window sill
  • Remove fruiting canes from berries
  • Do a visual check for any signs of pest infestation, like slugs, snails, and webworms
  • Drain your garden hose and store it indoors for the winter to prevent splitting and cracking

Fall Cleanup You Can Actually Skip

  • Let the leaves go. Put away your leaf blower and let mother nature create a rich and nutritious blanket for your garden. Fall leaves will add nutrients as they decompose and serve as mulch to insulate plant roots through the winter.
  • Don't clear all the dead plant material. It's not necessary to cut back and remove all of your plant matter; old stalks and leaves can provide a place for beneficial insects to overwinter.
  • Leave the flowers. Marigolds and zinnias will reseed; sunflowers will feed hungry squirrels and birds and create fall and winter interest.

Planting Beds for Fall  

Once you've cleared summer's old annuals, you can reboot beds for the last few months of the growing season.

Plant pansies for a fall burst of color. They are cold-hardy and will establish roots so they can carry through the winter and then flower again in the early spring, before summer annual planting time. They'll need to be pulled out at the end of the spring so summer annuals can be established.

Plant hardy chrysanthemums, which have deep roots and can withstand the cold; they like sun and well-drained soil. Be sure to deadhead them to encourage blooms.

Other options for fall beds include ornamental cabbage and kale, marigolds, and asters.

Be sure to have plenty of mulch, which acts as an insulating blanket around your plants' root systems.

Don't Forget to Plant for Spring

Take a moment to plant your bulbs for spring. The ideal time is October or November; this is when you'll want to plant daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, and narcissus. Pro tip: This fall, supply chain issues are impacting garden supplies as well, so be sure to order your bulbs as soon as possible.

Even though fall is a season when a lot of gardens (and gardeners) are winding down, it's an ideal time to extend the beauty and enjoyment of our landscapes. With a few pro moves and multi-tasking plantings, your yard can be a haven of color, texture, and inspiration well into autumn.