What You Need to Put on Your Fall Gardening Checklist Now

Plant these things—and clear away others—before the colder days ahead

A woman empties a basket of leaves onto a table outdoors

While it’s tempting to put your tools away when summer ends, your fall gardening checklist should include a few essential cleanup chores. Here are some to-dos to put on your list right now.

Plant bulbs

A cluster of garlic bulbs.

Spring-flowering bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, can be planted from late September through October. Read the package directions for the correct planting depth and spacing.

Garlic is another crop to plant in the fall. It provides two harvests: the garlic scapes, typically around the end of June, and the actual heads of garlic in July. You’ll want to dig in cloves a couple of weeks after your region’s fall frost date, but before the ground freezes.

Plant trees and shrubs

A closeup of purple hydrangeas

Planting deciduous trees and shrubs (think maple, forsythia, hydrangea and crabapple) in September through to the end of October allows the roots to become established before winter. When planting, make sure that the top of the root ball is flush with the hole you’ve dug.

Bring these plants indoors for winter

A closeup view of a ficus plant.

Save citrus trees and tender perennials such as rosemary by bringing them indoors before they’re touched by frost. First, check to make sure you aren’t bringing any insects inside, then pot the plants and place in a south-facing window. Certain plants, such as fig trees and brugmansia, will go dormant over the winter in a cold room with root-cellar conditions and require minimal care.

Boost soil conditions

A woman empties a basket of leaves onto a table outdoors.

If you have an abundance of leaves, run them over with the lawnmower and distribute the resulting mulch throughout your garden beds. This will add nutrients to the soil during the winter. You can also add compost to your vegetable gardens in the fall to prepare them for spring planting.

Store plant containers

Rows of terracotta pots that are turned upside down to dry properly.

Potted plants can be taken apart. Annuals can be composted (unless you bring them indoors to overwinter), while perennials can be dug into the garden. Wash and dry terracotta and porcelain pots thoroughly before storing; if they are left with soil and plants inside, they may crack.

Care for your rain barrel

An overhead view of a rain barrel

Drain your rain barrel and the attached hose completely before winter. If possible, cover the rain barrel or turn it upside down.

Looking for more gardening ideas?

Here’s how to garden in the smallest outdoor spaces and how to put up a bird feeder this winter.

Image credit: Xuan Nguyen/unsplash, Veri Ivanova/unsplash, iStock.com/Andrey Nikitin, Ababsolutum/Getty Images, Annie Spratt/unsplash and Arlene Xie/unsplash

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