Enjoy these last days of warm sunshine in your garden before winter arrives, and get a jump on next spring, by tackling a few simple chores. Fall garden work can be done at a more leisurely pace, but its just as important as the work you do in the spring and summer.
Most important in the fall is to give the garden a thorough cleaning, says Don Engbretson, a master gardener, award-winning garden writer, and host of www.RenegadeGardener.com. Where there is winter or killing frost, cutting down perennials and removing annuals from the garden beds is the best way to ensure a healthy garden next spring, he says.
1. Collect vegetables that still are growing in the garden. Some can be used even if theyre small, and all but the smallest tomatoes will ripen if kept in a cool spot.
2. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch to perennial beds, especially if youve recently planted new ones. The mulch gives new plants time to develop roots before the ground freezes and keeps established plants from heaving out of the soil during freezing and thawing. Dried grass clippings, straw, or shredded autumn leaves work fine.
3. Perhaps the most neglected chore is fall watering of trees and shrubs, Engbretson says. They, particularly young ones, should be watered at least every two weeks until the ground freezes.
4. Shredded autumn leaves also may be composted or simply tilled into the garden where they will decompose and improve the soil.
5. After the leaves are cleaned up from the yard, mow it one last time to a height of about 2 inches. Applying fertilizer in the fall will encourage healthy root growth and make your lawn thicker and greener next spring. Use a fertilizer specifically formulated for fall application, because it contains a blend of nutrients for root growth rather than leaf development.
6. Take care of your tools before storing them for the winter. Carefully clean off the dirt, sharpen as needed, and apply a light coating of vegetable oil to prevent rust. Run lawn mowers and other gas-powered equipment until they run out of fuel and oil them as needed. Unless you still have a need for water outside, this is the time to shut off the outdoor hose valves and drain any water left in the pipes to prevent freezing and bursting.
Successful gardening requires some work, but its satisfying, and the attention you pay to those jobs now will pay off in spring.