Fall Gardening Checklist
As the summer ends, and the regular gardening season begins to wind down, there are timely garden chores that need to be done in your yard and garden. At the top is providing good soil moisture for your larger trees and evergreens, landscape shrubs, perennials and lawn, and newly planted plants, as they go thru fall and winter. Good moisture in the soil is a very important part of how well plants will make it through the winter and into next spring, especially evergreens. Now, here’s that fall checklist. Hope it helps keep you on pace, as this season winds down.
___Late August and early September is the best time for core aerating, seeding, and applying a starter fertilizer to your new seed, applying the first fall feeding of the lawn, and if needed, total lawn renovation. Timing for feeding and core aerating can continue on into and thru October if needed. Seeding in October may or may not be successful, depending on the weather, but can be done.
___Plant fall colors such as mums, asters, pansies, cold hardy annuals, ornamental grasses, late - blooming perennials, ornamental cabbage and kale, mustard greens, etc. Change out the summer annuals in your containers for these fall bloomers.
___Dig and divide most spring and early summer flowering perennials as needed. Late summer (August thru Sept.) is the time for iris and peonies.
___Bring tropical plants that have been outside all summer, indoors, before night temperatures reach below the 50’s. Acclimate them in the shade for 10 days before bringing indoors. Then, be sure to inspect and treat for insects and other critter before bringing them indoors. Check in the pots and soil for hitch-hikers as well!
___Apply Preen (or Espoma’s Corn Gluten) in the fall to help prevent winter annuals from germinating (chickweed, henbit, purslane) in landscape beds.
___Continue to remove all dead foliage from perennials and clean up left over annuals and veggie plants. Cut them off and leave the roots. They will break down and add organic matter back to the soil. Place disease free dead foliage in the compost pile.
___Start a compost pile; it doesn’t take much space. Today’s yard debris can become tomorrow’s garden gold as a soil amendment. Grass clippings, finely ground leaves, small sticks, vegetable trimmings from the kitchen, spent flowers and foliage, etc, can all be added to the compost pile.
___Clean up areas around fruiting trees and plants to get rid of fallen fruits, diseased leaves and branches, etc, for a cleaner start next spring.
___Start (or pot from outdoors) herbs for growing indoors over the winter.
___Keep those leaves from accumulating on the lawn, especially newly seeded lawns. In mature lawns, feel free to return some of those leaves back to the soil by mowing them into finer pieces. Grass clippings and finely ground leaves actually creates thin layer composting right there in the turf! Be cautious to not over apply finely ground leaves to the established turf. Too much can be a bad thing.
___Check for cracks and crevices, torn or loose screens, anywhere that winter invading insects can get into the house, and seal those up! For added protection, create an insect barrier around the foundation with an insecticide.
___Cover water gardens, ground cover and new seeded areas with nylon netting to keep leaves and debris out, and makes it easier for you to collect the leaves!.
___Keep planting trees and shrubs. As long as the soil is workable and the weather is good, you can plant all through the rest of the year. Fall is thee best time for planting most trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials, roses, lawns, etc. Water newly planted trees and shrubs as needed until we get into consistently cold weather. Also check soil moisture between foundation plants and the foundation. If that area is dry, water.
___Protect younger trees (3 inch trunk diameter or smaller) from deer damage (bucks rubbing) with trunk protectors.
___Protect deer browse susceptible plants with DeerScram / Liquid Fence / Repels All, etc. Also consider nylon netting coverage.
___Transplant trees and shrubs and perennials that need to be moved in the yard.
___Expect your evergreens to shed inner needled during the fall. It’s a normal process. But be sure to keep them watered going thru the fall season.
___Do last minute ‘hand trimming’ of evergreens, tree limbs, etc. late fall if needed (plants over grown in their location), but save most hard or severe pruning for late winter / spring. Pruning spring flowering trees and shrubs in the fall will reduce or eliminate spring flowers, so prune after flowering to preserve spring flowers.
___Plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, anemones, alliums, etc. Plant several in pots for bringing indoors early next spring. October thru November is the best time for planting spring bulbs.
___Fall (October) is the best time to go after those broadleaf weeds in the landscape and lawns. Using a weed killer in the fall works better as the weeds are taking in nutrients and storing them in their roots for winter, so they take in the weed killer as well. Spot treat the weeds as needed. Remember, if you have new grass, make sure it has been mowed at least 3 times before applying a weed killer.
___Dig, clean and store summer bulbs (cannas, tuberous begonias, gladiolas, caladiums, etc.) in a cool dark place for replanting next year. Let the light early frosts kill the tops, then dig and store away.
___Keep mowing the lawn on a regular basis (change directions each time you mow) until the lawn has stopped growing. For the last 2 cuts, feel free to lower your mower one notch (this is optional – not required). When the lawn has stopped growing for the season, mow it one last time, and feed with a high N fertilizer. Then, go have your mower serviced, and the blades sharpened!
___Gather frost sensitive fruits and veggies before Jack Frost takes them out!
___Till the garden this fall. Exposed soils freeze and thaw over the winter and helps to break up that heavy soil. Add a layer of compost, pine soil conditioner, SweetPeet, manure, or finely ground leaves and grass clippings before you till. Fall is the best time to apply most soil amendments.
___Feed the trees in late fall if needed. Vertical mulching or soil injection with a Ross Root feeder works great. If feeding evergreens, wait until late fall and use ½ normal rate. Spring is good for feeding evergreens.
___Feed the birds, and clean your feeders if it hasn’t been done recently. Make sure your birds have a source of water over the winter, as well as landscaping for the birds, including evergreens, plants with seeds or berries, and thicker growing shrubs.
___Have your soil tested. Many adjustments can be made this fall and early next spring.
___Clean, oil and properly store all garden tools when the season is over. Also, drain and coil all hoses and store where they won’t freeze. Properly store all chemicals to keep them from freezing.
___Empty or properly store containers and planters to prevent freezing and damages to the pots. If you are overwintering planted pots, move them to unheated garages, sheds, window wells, etc, after they have gone dormant and the temperatures have gotten consistently cold. Keep these plants cold to remain dormant all winter. Water once per month.
___Clean out those gutters and down spouts to prevent ice clogs during the winter.
___Brighten your holidays by planting amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs. They take 6 weeks or so to flower, so plan accordingly. Plant them on staggered times to have colors all winter long.
___Spray evergreens (as needed) with WiltStop for greater winter protection. Do this later in the fall. You can also spray rose canes for added winter protection.
___Do not protect roses for the winter until late in the year, after the plants have gone dormant and the soil is close to or frozen. Reduce long branches as needed, but save serious pruning for next spring.
___Winter mulching should not be done until the ground is frozen, or at least down into the lower 40’s or colder. And remember to keep mulch away from the bottom of tree trunks, and for critter protection away from the base of most landscape plants.