Honestly, I don’t know if fall garden clean-up is worse than spring start-up. In September, I reflect about all my screws ups over the year and vow to correct these mistakes for next year by either moving or dividing plants, adding beds, and/or simply changing the layout of the garden. However, despite my compulsive need to change everything in the garden, listed below are my top five must dos to make your next Spring garden easier.
Tip #1–Clean Up the Weeds.
Weeds don’t necessarily die when winter comes. Not all weeds are annual weeds–the ones that you tug and they are gone. The tough ones are perennials that come back every year with a vengeance. My two worst weeds are thistle and dandelions. If you don’t remove the entire tap root, the plant just comes back.
Before you get all “I love-dandelions-on-me,” hear me out. Sure the flowers are pretty and great to make jelly but when they are taking over the beds, they just aren’t fun anymore.
What do I do? I use this hand tool and do my best to pull them out. Others have suggested a variety of dandelion pullers but I have never tried them. (If you have a favorite tool for pulling out dandelions, I am all ears.)
So, free your beds of weeds now.
Tip #2-Collect Leaves.
In order to make compost, you need six part browns to one part green. The easiest “brown” to collect are leaves.
Every year I collect about 8 bags of leaves for next years’ compost. If you wait until the Spring, there may be very little leaves left to collect.
I store my leaves in the garage over the winter. Read more about gathering leaves for next spring here.
Tip #3–Move plants now.
October in zone 6 is a great month to move plants. The weather has cooled down so the moving transition will be easier for the plants.
This year, I moved all my “free” plants into another bed. In fact, my garden is abundant with free plants thanks to the wind and the birds. However, if I left the plants in their present location, they would smother the other plants. Consequently 20 echinacea, various catmint, and feverfew found new homes in different locations in the garden.
However, this is also a great time to move plants that aren’t doing well in their current location. Look around your garden and see which plants aren’t thriving. My hydrangea were being smothered by nearby plants. Some of my blueberries weren’t doing as well since they were in shade part of the day, and the feverfew was impossible to cut since it spread throughout the thorny rose bushes.
Tip #4–Get Your beds ready for next year.
Many of my beds contain vegetables such as cucumbers, beans, and other summer harvested plants. I plant a green manure (or crop cover) to help increase the nutrients in the beds for next year. My favorite green manure is oats; however you can use rye, buckwheat, soybeans, or other varieties to achieve the same purpose.
Some light reading:
- Video on planting oats.
- Planting rye or oats as ground cover.
- Growing alfalfa.
- Information about crop covers.
Note, if you want to plant oats, be sure to plant at least 6 weeks before frost date. If you are too late, you will need to plant a hardier crop cover that will need to be plowed under in the spring. Oats die in the winter making spring clean up easier.
Tip #5–Divide your plants.
Certain plants like daylilies and irises needed to be divided. Daylilies should be divided every 3 to 5 years. On the other hand, irises should be divided every three to four years.
Fall is a great time to divide daylilies. Note, divide your plants no later than 6 weeks before frost date. Otherwise you have to wait until Spring to divide them.
Late summer or early fall is a great time to divide irises. If you are unable to divide them, you should wait until the following year to do so.
- How to divide daylilies.
- Wonderful video on how to divide your daylilies.
- How to Grow, Maintain, and Divide Bearded Iris
- Video on how to divide your irises.
Join the Conversation:
- What are your fall garden maintenance tips?
- How do you get your vegetable beds ready for the spring?