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10 Essential Fall Gardening Tasks

After all, fall is the second busiest gardening season!

Now that the leaves are changing and the weather has cooled down, it’s the perfect time to do some maintenance to prepare your garden for the winter, and to prime your yard for next spring.

Here are ten fall yard and gardening tasks to make sure next year’s bounty is as plentiful as this year’s was!

1. Clean Up

Start by cleaning up:

  • Remove fallen leaves by raking them up, but don’t throw them away just yet. Leaves are perfect to use as mulch – after you gather fallen leaves, bag them and set them aside.
  • If there are any perennials in your flower garden, this is the time to cut them back.
  • Pull up dead annuals from your garden.
  • Get rid of weeds by using a spray specifically designed for your target weeds, or by pulling them using a weed remover.
  • Scan your garden for plant diseases, like powdery mildew (this produces a white, snowy texture on your plants.) If you leave a plant disease in your garden over winter, it could damage next spring’s plants. After you remove the diseased plant, place it in a paper bag then dispose it.

2. Compost

Next, if you plan on composting, now is the time to do so:

  • Gather weeds, grass clippings, dead plants and leaves.
  • Mix these together in your compost – by mixing all these compost materials together, you will help each of them break down easier.
  • Note: scan your dead plants for diseases, as these can also live in compost. Be sure to remove these from your compost and dispose of them properly.

3. Plant

If you thought planting season was long gone, you’re in for a surprise! There are plenty of trees, shrubs, and even vegetables to plant in the fall:

  • Now is the time to plant perennials that flower in the spring and summer – just make sure you do so six to eight weeks before winter, so that their roots can form before the cold sets in.
  • Spring-flowering bulbs that are hardy enough to survive through the winter – like daffodils and tulips – should also be planted now.
  • Plant shrubs and evergreen trees in autumn as well, and continue to water these until the ground freezes for the winter.
  • Asiatic and Oriental lilies should be planted in late fall.
  • Garlic should be planted in October.

4. Harvest

It’s time to harvest your autumn bounty!

  • Pick the last of your apples, plums, and other remaining fruit from your fruit-bearing trees.
  • If your garden is overflowing with ripened vegetables, now is the time to harvest them. This includes:
    • Pumpkins and squash: harvest these before the first frost – if you leave them outside after frost sets in, they will become soft.
    • Peas and beans: when these are finished cropping, cut the plant at ground level and leave their roots in the soil.
    • Cabbages: leave cabbage roots in the soil as well, cutting across the stem to encourage smaller leaf growth.

5. Cover

If you have any rose shrubs or evergreen trees in your front or backyard, now is the time to cover these by wrapping them with burlap. This is especially important if they are growing near a maple, birch, oak, or other large deciduous tree – when these deciduous trees lose their leaves, the bushes will be exposed to direct and full sun, something that they aren’t used to throughout the rest of the year. Be sure to cover bushes to protect them from harsh direct sunlight.

6. Transplant

Before overnight temperature drops below 10°C, tender perennials – such as geraniums and canna lilies – should be moved. Now is the time to pot these and bring them inside your home, while the soil is still wet and cool.

This is also a good time to divide some of your plants and perennials, like daylilies, Siberian iris, hardy geraniums, and hostas. Cut into the plants using a sharp shovel, then replant them back in your garden or give them away to a fellow gardener.

7. Mulch

It’s time to take those fallen leaves and put them to good use! Instead of throwing them away, use autumn leaves as mulch by spreading them over your flowerbeds. Using leaves for mulch is actually beneficial to your flowerbeds, as this decomposing leaf matter is full of minerals that aid in plant growth.

8. Mow Your Lawn

Continue to mow your lawn throughout the fall months, as needed. As winter draws nearer, put your mower’s blade to its lowest setting for the last few cuttings of the season – this will ensure that more sunlight reaches the crown of the grass.

9. Fertilize

According to lawn experts, if there’s one time of year to fertilize your lawn, it’s in the fall! In mid or late fall, apply dry lawn fertilizer to your lawn, making sure not to miss any spots of grass. Use a walk-behind drop spread to get the best coverage.

10. Prepare for Winter

Before you complete your fall gardening to-do list, prepare your yard for the winter by shutting off outside water connections, and draining all your garden hoses.

After you’ve planted, harvested, and prepared your yard and garden for the season, it’s time to move on to your home! Use our fall maintenance guide to ready your property for the chilly season, so that you can keep both your home and garden in good condition throughout the fall and winter months.

10 Essential Fall Gardening Tasks

Although spring is prime time for gardening in Ontario, there’s no shortage of fall gardening tasks to keep those with a green thumb busy throughout autumn.