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Fall Gardening Checklist: 7 things to do to get the yard ready for next spring

Fall gardening is just as important as spring gardening!

We’ve had a turn in the weather. It’s a prompt from Mother Nature that now is the time to put the yard to bed.

Assistant professor of Horticulture with Utah State University Extension, Sheriden Hansen, shares your fall yard and garden checklist.

Find more garden inspiration at extension.usu.edu/botanicalcenter.


The Fall Gardening Checklist

Fall is a great time to do some clean up tasks and start thinking about the next gardening season. What you do in the yard NOW will determine how good your yard looks NEXT SPRING.

Cutting Back Perennials

Once flowering has stopped, herbaceous perennials (plants that live longer than 3 years and have soft stems) can be cut back. This reduces mess in the garden in the spring, however, you should leave a few plants to overwinter as full-sized plants to give native bees and beneficial insects places to overwinter. Clean up, but not too much! Plants that are woody, like lavender, should not be cut hard, but can be trimmed and shaped slightly.

Fall Perennial Dividing

Fall is an excellent time to divide some of your perennials. Once plants have been cut back for the year, you can easily use a shovel or two garden forks to cut and gently pull the plant in half or thirds, depending on plant size. Make sure to replant and water in as soon as possible to reduce plant shock and get roots growing quickly.

Remove Annuals

All of the annuals in your flower beds, containers, and vegetable gardens can be removed after the first frost. These are tender plants and will not live through the winter. Cleaning up now will give you less to do in the spring!

What to do with all the leaves?

Leaves that fall can be a great source of organic matter. Organic matter is what we add to soil to correct texture and drainage issues and improve water and nutrient holding capacity. Clay soil? Add organic matter! Sandy soil? Add organic matter! It is the magic bullet for soil health. Leave the leaves on the grass and mow over them with a mower to break into smaller pieces. You can allow them to break down on the lawn after mowing or you can use your mower bag to collect them and add to garden beds. By time spring comes, they will be mostly broken down and will have improved your soil tilth.

Controlling Weeds

Fall is one of the BEST times to control weeds. By weeding now, you can reduce the seed dispersal that can cause new weeds to pop up next year and ultimately reduce your workload in the spring. Cooler temperatures are also best for applying a broad leaf weed killer to the lawn to remove summer annuals like crabgrass, spotted spurge and purslane.

Planting Garlic

If you are a garlic lover, planting garlic in October is a great way to wrap up the gardening season. Source garlic from local farmers markets and plant individual cloves 6-8 inches apart 4-6 inches deep. Mulch with leaves or straw and next spring, it will be one of the first signs of life, and will give you a harvest of garlic mid-summer.

Plant Trees, Perennials, and Spring Bulbs

If you have been wanting to plant trees or perennial flower beds, now is an excellent time to do it. Many plants are discounted this time of year and because the weather is cool, plants establish well. Spring bulbs added to beds is an excellent way to get a layer of early spring color that is drought tolerant and beautiful in the garden.

Dream and Plan for Next Year: Once you have cleaned up, sit back, relax, and grab your favorite seed catalogs and a cup of hot cocoa. There is no better time to dream and plan next year’s garden than now, while this year’s garden is fresh on your mind.

Sheriden Hansen serves as an assistant professor of horticulture with the Utah State University Extension. She holds a Masters in Plant Science from Utah State University. Sheriden loves to teach about fruit and vegetable production, how to grow crops in small spaces and container gardening. Sheriden is married with two sons. She is a registered nurse and beekeeper.

Sheriden is with the USU Botanical Center in Kaysville. Here you will find beautiful walk-through gardens and a full roster of classes and family activities. Get connected with the Botanical Center here.

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