Fall is one of the most magical times to be outside. Summer’s heat starts to subside and fall promises a new and easier growing season for cool-season veggies, herbs and flowers without the hassle of pests.
Gardens send signals that fall is coming. Annual flowers turn brown and die, the last of the harvest is ripe for picking and eventually, the leaves take on a colorful display.
That’s why doing yard cleanup now makes sense. And, because you’ve got better things to do, you’ll make yard work less of a chore by tackling these to-do items now.
1. Start with the proper tools
Before you get started, make sure you’re prepared with the right tools for the job. Check your gardening gloves and make sure they’re salvageable from the previous season of gardening. If not, invest in a new pair to protect your hands. Rub lotion on your hands before slipping them on for extra protection.
Next, be sure you have all the right garden tools for your outdoor cleanup, such as hand pruners for small jobs and a tree saw and ladder for hard to reach branches. Be sure the tools are sharp, too; use a sharpening stone to repair dull edges.
A wheelbarrow or yard cart, such as the one at the top of the story, will make the work easier; for carrying tools, compost, mulch and other gardening materials or ridding your space of debris, it is invaluable.
2. Prep the garden
- Rake your garden to remove leaves and plant debris, including unusable vegetables and fruits. A shrub rake clears a path in tight spaces, including underneath bushes.
- Pull or dig old stems and roots, including dried annuals. If you see any bugs or disease, avoid throwing the debris in the compost pile, where problems can spread. Instead, discard in the trash.
- Dig tender bulbs with a garden trowel or shovel and store in paper bags in a dark, dry spot until spring.
- To extend crops that are still producing, prepare your beds with a cold frame or row covers for chilly nights to come. See other tips for prepping your garden for fall greens and more.
- When leaves begin to fall, collect them using a lawn mower with a bagging attachment and add them to the compost bin. When used as mulch, leaves provide great insulation and valuable nutrients. Consider investing in a shredder so you can use the leaves as mulch in the garden sooner. It will keep your plants warm, happy and healthy with nutrients through the coming seasons.
3. Stop weeds in their tracks
- Dig them up. Use a weeder or hand pull any large weeds and rake the smaller ones to loosen them from the soil and discard.
- Apply weed preventer. Spread weed preventer in garden beds according to the package instructions. Lightly water in a granular weed control. Avoid placing weed killer around edibles; hand pull those instead.
- Mulch. With a garden fork, spread mulch in your garden now to help stop weeds from rooting in the first place. Mulch also adds a layer of insulation to plants. Not sure how much? Use our mulch calculator to determine how much is needed for the job.
- Plant a cover crop. Plant “green manure” such as rye, clover or buckwheat. Cover crops help control erosion, prevent weeds from sprouting during fall warm spells and build better soil.
4. Reinvigorate trees and shrubs
- Trim. Cut away dry, dead branches using pruning shears for small branches, loppers for medium and a pruning saw for larger branches.
- Prune. Rhododendrons, azaleas and other spring-flowering shrubs, as well as maple, birch, dogwood, walnut and elm trees can be pruned now. Use a ladder to get at hard-to-reach places.
- Deadhead. To extend the blooming time of late blooming annuals and perennials, deadhead your flowers or give them a haircut now with micro pruning snips. Read more about end of season flowering stars.