From Saturday football games to the pumpkins showing up on porches and patios, signs of fall are everywhere. The air is getting cooler, too — not cold enough to shut down our gardens, but enough to remind us it’s time to cut back leggy plants, refresh tired flowers, and catch up on other autumn gardening chores.
Refresh and Replant
Heat and humidity are rough on plants, and by now, the last of the summer annuals are overgrown or exhausted. If you live in a frost-free zone, some flowers, such as petunias, can be cut back to half their height to encourage more blooms and bushier growth.
Tall, floppy plants in containers can be replaced. Many Home Depot Garden Centers sell ready-made containers filled with colorful flowers and foliage. Just take out your old plants, drop in the new ones, and they’re ready to grow.
Rather do-it-yourself? Choose your favorites for sun or shade, and refill the containers with fresh potting soil mixed with a slow-release fertilizer. Water thoroughly to settle them in. If you’re not sure what to plant, see our suggestions for the best fall annuals and shrubs for your region.
Prune and Trim
If your houseplants have been vacationing outdoors, refresh them by cutting back as much as one-third of their top growth. Then ease them out of their pots and trim their roots by an equal amount. Before you re-plant, clean the containers and refill them with fresh potting soil. Use our tips to inspect your houseplants and make the transition easier.
It’s also time to cut back ornamental grasses that have finished blooming. Most can be pruned to about 8 inches high, using electric hedge trimmers or large clippers.
Check Irrigation Systems
Remember to check the timer on your irrigation system, too. You may not need to water as often or as long now that the weather is cooling down. On the other hand, it’s important to keep new plants and transplants well-watered if autumn rains are scarce. This will help them develop the roots they’ll need to support next year’s flowers and leaves.
Mulch that you applied earlier this year to garden beds and borders is probably breaking down by now. If it contains leaves or plant debris that show signs of pests or disease, rake it off and replace it with fresh mulch. Otherwise, add new mulch on top of the old to help hold moisture and keep weeds from sprouting.
Add plant trimmings and grass clippings from your lawn, if you’re still mowing, to your compost bin. They’ll eventually decompose, and you can distribute them over your garden next year.
update Your Palette
Finally, don’t forget to have fun and be creative with your garden this fall. Consider growing a seasonal palette of plants in burnt orange, bronze, gold, deep red or purple. Potted garden mums and pansies make it easy to add pops of color to decks and patios, and they’re pretty centerpieces for autumn gatherings.