How to Prepare Your Garden for the Fall

Опубликовал Admin
24-12-2020, 02:30
Before the temperature drops, you can easily prepare your garden for the fall! While it is still warm and the soil is workable, remove weeds, dead plants, and lawn debris from your garden. Then, harvest any remaining crops, add some compost, till your soil, and cover with mulch. To prepare for the cold, cover perennials with mulch, bring sensitive plants indoors, and cover your compost bin. With a little bit of maintenance, your garden will easily be ready for the next season.

Tidying up Your Garden

  1. Start a new compost bin for the upcoming season. Use a shovel or garden tool to scoop up your compost, and place it in a bucket or bin to use in your garden. Use up your older compost and add fresh organic matter to it every year. This will help your plants continue to receive rich nutrients.
    • You don’t have to get rid of every single compost scrap. Just make sure you use the majority of your compost to prevent wasting it.
  2. Clean up any dead plants and lawn debris from your garden bed. Walk around your garden and pick up any dead branches, dropped fruit, and other large garden debris. Pull up any spent plants to avoid pests and disease, as well. Then, add all of this organic matter to your compost pile after you clear it out.
    • You can wear gardening gloves to prevent injuries while cleaning up your yard.
  3. Rip out all of the weeds from your garden. In addition to removing dead plants and debris, it is helpful to weed your garden in the fall to prevent weeds from growing down the line. To do this, put on a pair of garden gloves and pull up the weed by its stem and roots. You want to remove its roots, so pull straight up with moderate force. Then, throw your weeds in your compost pile.
    • If the weeds are seeding or if you believe that they may grow new weeds, throw them away in the trash instead of the compost pile.
    • Go around all of your garden bed and pull up every weed you find.
  4. Inspect your trees and perennials and prune them accordingly. Look for discoloration or growths on the leaves, branches, and flowers of your plants. If you find any damaged or diseased spots, cut them off using garden shears or scissors. In addition, you can prune plants in the fall based on your climate zone. Some crops will be ready to prune as soon as fall strikes, while others can wait until the first frost or the next spring. Check your plants’ pruning instructions online.
    • For example, you can prune plants like perennial herbs, blackberries, raspberries, roses, and fruit trees.
    • To determine your hardiness zone, visit a site like, and type in your zip code. Press “Go,” and then review the climate zone listed. This site will also offer information about when to prune your plants for the fall.

Preparing Your Soil

  1. Harvest all of your vegetables and herbs before you till your soil. When summer transitions to autumn, you can harvest your remaining crops to use during the colder months. Scavenge as much of your garden as you can! It is helpful to use a basket when collecting your crops. In addition, you can collect seeds from your crops if you want to grow them again next year.
    • For example, dig up your final carrots and potatoes, and pluck your final tomatoes or peppers.
    • You can also lay your herbs flat or hang bundles vertically for over 24 hours to dry them, if you’d like to use dried herbs for cooking or around your house.
  2. Check your soil nutrient composition and pH level using a test kit. Purchase a test kit, and use about 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) of dirt from the top 2–4 inches (5.1–10.2 cm) of your soil. Put your soil in the testing chamber, and stop when you reach the indicated line. Then, add distilled water with an eye-dropper. Wait 1-2 minutes for the soil test to complete, and do this to test both nutrients and pH levels.
    • To determine the levels, check the color of the indicator and match it with the key on your test kit.
    • To make your soil more acidic, add sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or iron sulfate.
    • To make your soil more basic, use powdered limestone or lime.
    • If you don't want to amend your soil, choose plants that grow well in its natural pH.
  3. Loosen your soil with a rake or hand tool to aerate the soil. Your soil is likely compacted from walking over it during the summer months. To loosen up your soil, take a garden tool and dig up the top layer of soil.
    • Do this for both garden beds and raised beds.
    • Moving around the soil on top helps your new plants take root in the soil and receive more nutrients from underneath.
  4. Spread 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) of compost or fertilizer over your soil. After your soil is loosened up, pour a couple of inches of compost from your bin on top. A rich layer of compost will replenish the soil’s nutrients, whether you are growing crops in the fall or waiting until springtime.
    • If after testing your soil you realize there is a depletion of particular nutrients, you can add fertilizer in that nutrient instead of compost. This will replenish specific nutrients and bring your soil back to a balanced state.
  5. Cover your garden with mulch to avoid weeds, pests, and diseases. In addition to compost or fertilizer, pour an even, thin layer of mulch over your garden bed. Your layer should be about ⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) thick at most. You can purchase mulch at a garden store or local nursery. Dried grass clippings, straw, wood chips, and pine needles also work.
    • Adding the right amount of mulch is important to avoid pests and diseases. Once the ground freezes, pests and diseases often die off. If you have too much mulch, the cold temperatures will not spread into your soil.
    • Mulch helps protect your soil and prevent weeds from emerging. As the mulch breaks down, it will release new nutrients into the soil.

Equipping Your Garden for Frost

  1. Plant fall cover crops at least 4 weeks before the first frost. Planting cover crops is helpful because they keep the soil microbes alive during the winter months. They also suppress weeds and reduce erosion of the topsoil. Use crops with deep roots to add as much nutrients to your soil as possible.
    • Use cover crops like rye, garlic, and legumes.
    • Turn over your cover crops in the springtime before you plant your spring flowers and vegetables.
  2. Bring your herb garden inside if you are growing herbs in containers. Herbs are sensitive to the cold, and you should bring them indoors when you notice them wilting. Leave your herb containers in a spot with ample natural light so they continue to grow in the colder months.
    • For example, you can store your herb containers on a window ledge in your kitchen, morning room, or living room.
    • Alternatively, you can dry your herbs to use them later or harvest the seeds to plant during the next growing season.
  3. Trim perennial stems to about 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) above the soil. If you are growing perennial plants like bergenias or brunnera, grab a pair of scissors or garden shears and trim the stalks down so only a few inches are visible. Place your plant scraps in your compost bin. This helps the plants stay healthy while dormant during the cold temperatures.
    • It is also helpful to lay down mulch over your perennials to prevent the roots from freezing and thawing multiple times in winter and spring.
  4. Transplant sensitive plant species indoors 1-2 months before frost hits. If you have tender crops like begonias and dahlias, you want to replant them into indoor pots so they stay healthy during the winter. To do this, trim overgrown leaves or branches, and gently lift your plants out of the ground. Place your individual plants in pots large enough to house their roots, and pour sand or dry compost overtop. Leave the top of the plant’s crown visible, and store them in a safe location.
    • Good locations to store your plants include your morning room, foyer, or kitchen.
    • If you live somewhere with mild fall and winter seasons, you can protect your plants by covering the crowns with a thick layer of mulch instead of transplanting them.
  5. Cover your compost with a plastic tarp or layer of straw before it snows. To keep your compost pile rich with nutrients and safe from the cold, throw a plastic tarp on top. This helps preserve your compost throughout the colder months. You can secure the plastic on the sides of your compost bin by stacking rocks on the edges or zip-tying it to nearby posts.
    • If you don’t have a plastic sheet or tarp to use, you can also cover your compost with a 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) layer of straw.
  6. Shut down your watering system before the first frost. Disassemble your garden hose or automatic irrigation system so it is not damaged in the cold. If you are collecting rainwater, you can drain your water barrel. Store your watering supplies in your shed, garage, or basement.
    • For example, unscrew your garden hose from your outdoor spigot and bring it into your shed.
    • Make sure all the water is out of your system, especially if you live in a cold climate. You can use an air compressor to spray out any remaining droplets.


  • It is helpful to find your climate zone and check your particular fall gardening instructions. If you live in a warmer climate, your fall gardening preparations may be much different than someone living in a very cold environment.

Things You’ll Need

  • Garden bed or raised beds
  • Garden gloves or clean hands
  • Nutrient-rich potting soil
  • Rake
  • Seeds or bulbs (optional)
  • Compost
  • Compost bin
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
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