Fall Gardening Check List

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Fall Gardening Check List

The days are getting shorter.

The trees are full of leafy autumn color, which shortly will fall to the ground. Rain is returning. And there’s a chill in the air. The smell of apples and hay and fresh rot floats by on the building breeze. It must be fall. And winter isn’t far behind.

Before everything freezes up and snow begins to fall, be sure to get out there and get those critical end-of-season gardening chores wrapped up and put to bed. Then, you’ll rest a little more comfortably when your garden is blanketed in the white stuff and you’re cuddled up by the fire pouring over design plans and plant catalogs in anticipation of Spring’s forthcoming return.

To help you stay on track, here are a few reminders:

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Bring in your crops: If your veggie garden isn’t protected from the cold, be sure to harvest those last tasty morsels before they freeze up. Some root crops, Brussels sprouts, hardy kales and winter squashes will survive a mild freeze and actually taste better after a cold snap. Many other crops will just melt to the ground in a sloppy, inedible mess.

  • Winterize your irrigation: Whether you hire an irrigation company to blow out your lines or drain your drip lines on your own, do it now. If they freeze in winter, you might get quite a surprising water bill once everything defrosts later. And finding those breaks, well, that’s no fun at all!
  • Put away your hoses: Hoses left attached to hose bibs can lead to broken water lines. Plus, hoses left in the garden may freeze, crack and be useless by spring.
  • Protect your hose bibs: Not every hose bib is created equal. Some are freeze proof. Many are not and should be protected from the cold with insulation wrapping available at most hardware stores. Remember: if a bib freezes, it may lead to burst pipes.
  • Care for Containers: Some containers are built for the cold; others will crack and freeze in winter. If yours aren’t freeze proof, move them to a protected spot or clear them out and store them to use next spring. If they are freeze proof and filled with plants, be sure they’re well watered before it gets very cold. This will help protect the plant roots as they prepare for dormancy.
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  • Divide and Transplant: If a freeze isn’t imminent, you may have time to do some last perennial divisions. Do them now to fill up the obviously empty spots in the garden, and next year your beds will be full.
  • Clean and Mulch: If your garden still has lingering weeds, try to winnow them out before falling leaves bury them, providing an insulation layer that protects them through the winter. Cut back and compost spent perennials and veggie garden residues; getting rid of them now will help keep aways pests and disease they may help overwinter. And, as long as the ground isn’t covered in snow, it’s never too late to add a protective layer of 2-3” of high quality composted mulch to your beds.
  • Fill the Wood Shed: If you’re planning to fire up the woodstove or fireplace this season, be sure your cured firewood is split, stacked and in a protected location. And make sure your kindling hatchet is sharp and handy. If you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned, call in the pro’s before you start that fire.
  • Unearth Winter Tools: Whether you use a simple square spade to move snow or a larger snow shovel, make sure they’re handy. If you need a snow blower, make sure its in good working order and you have fuel for it. Although salt isn’t ideal for the garden beds, safety comes first, so have your rock salt or de-icer somewhere easy to grab when those frozen mornings arrive.