Even the most passionate gardeners usually need a break by the time summer draws to a close.
Yet within a few short weeks, experienced gardeners are heading back outside. They know some of the most
productive and long-lasting improvements to any outdoor space take place in the fall.
Here are just a few things to consider for your autumn to-do list:
Fall is absolutely the best time of year to plant any tree and shrub. The soil is still warm enough for
roots to actively grow, and yet the demand on foliage growth is waning. Trees and shrubs planted now
have months to develop a healthy root system before the heat of next year.
Be sure to keep your new plants watered.
The drying winds of the cooler weather can quickly dehydrate plants. Check the soil moisture often, and
water when needed. For new plantings, provide water once a week in the absence of rain.
¥ Leaf Roundup
Don’t waste those fallen leaves! My single biggest job this time of year is rounding up all of my leaves,
and those of my neighbors.
As they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. My neighbors are glad to let me take their leaves off
I dump the leaves onto my grass, and run my mower over them. This shreds them into small pieces, which
then get raked into my beds.
They eventually break down, and as they do, they provide an excellent source of organic amendments for my
They also pull double duty, serving as that important layer of mulch throughout the winter.
¥ Flower Gardening
Fall is absolutely the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. In cooler climates, October to early
November is the best time to plant.
In southern climates, middle to late November is better. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths
are all great choices for spring color.
This is also the ideal time to divide perennials, and plant perennial seeds for next spring.
If you were one of the approximately 43 million Americans growing vegetables this summer, good for you!
But it’s time to clean up that summer garden. Many pests and diseases overwinter in old plant debris.
Get it out of your garden and into the compost pile, as long as it is disease-free. Otherwise, have it
removed from your property.
Hopefully, you’re growing some cool-season crops right now, like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, garlic and
Floating row covers do a great job of providing a few extra degrees of heat, and provide frost protection
for those tender young seedlings.
Most cool-season crops can handle cooler temperatures than you might imagine, and many taste even better
after a few light frosts.
If you’ve never had a fall vegetable garden, give it a try. You’re missing a real treat.
If you have cool-season turf, like fescue or bluegrass, you are about out of time to renovate or overseed
However, if this is still on your to-do list, be sure your soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5.
A soil test from your county extension service can give you this information, as well as any additional
nutrient requirements that might be needed, along with the appropriate amounts to add for your lawn.
But these reports can take a couple of weeks to get back.
By then you may have missed your window for this season, depending on where you live. Go ahead and add
seed now, if needed.
You can add the required nutrients after you get your report. Keep new grass seed moist. You may have to
water briefly, several times each day, until germination.
It’s best to overseed with enough time for it to germinate before fallen leaves cover the ground.
They can really hinder the success of your efforts.
However, if leaves are already falling, you should at least keep them off the lawn area by using a
One of the rewards for your efforts is that, next spring, you will have a garden that comes alive while
looking better than ever.
For more specifics on any of the projects listed above, you’ll find information on my Web site,
(Joe Lamp’l, host of "GardenSMART" on PBS, is a Master Gardener and author.)