Gardening in the fall is a great time to look back on your garden successes and disappointments, but there’s plenty of time for most of us to do some last-minute garden cleanup and maintenance. Fall gardening takes advantage of the cooler temperatures and fewer insects and putting the garden to rest is nowhere near as hectic as waking it up in the spring. You’ll have time to really see how your plants are doing.

Here are a few tasks to do now in order to make next year’s garden even better.

Preserve the last of your fall garden

Your garden might not be producing flowers anymore, but there is still plenty of seeds and herb remnants left. Collect them now to give you a head-start in the spring.

  • Collect dried seeds from open-pollinated flowers and veggies. You can save it to sow next year or do some strategic  self-sowing in other parts of your garden. You might even want to leave some of the seeds on the plants for winter bird feeding.
  • Gather herbs, seed heads, and flowers for drying. Leave some flowers for the birds, but get a headstart on your garden clean-up by cutting back plants like hydrangea and yarrow to bring them indoors, for some garden memories.
  • Take cuttings now, before your plants get turned to much by very heavy frosts. It’s much easier to bring in small cuttings of plants to over-winter than large pots of mature plants. Plus, they will be easier to transplant outdoors next spring.

Clean Up

Fall is a great time to check cleaning tasks off your garden to-do list. Less time tending to growing plants allows more time to complete necessary cleaning of your garden.

  • Clean bird feeders to get hem ready for winter use. The birds have done a great job feasting on garden pests and singing to you all summer, not it’s time to encourage them to stick around another year.
  • Clean out cold frames for winter use. You won’t want to do it when the weather and temperatures are hovering near freezing. Cleaning it out in the fall makes it more likely that you’ll use it again in the spring.
  • Clean, sand, and oil your garden tools before you store them for the winter. Cleaning your hand pruners is not as tough as you think.

Prep for Spring

The effort you put in now as you put your garden to bed for the winter will benefit you in the spring by making it easier to get your garden going again.

  • Enrich your garden beds with manure or compost. Just spread an even layer on any exposed soil. Winter’s freezing and thawing and the help from earthworms will work it well into the soil for you.
  • Winterize your water garden. Get ready to turn off the pump and turn on the ice breaker. Don’t forget to cover the water garden with netting to keep falling leaves out.
  • Keep trees and shrubs well watered until the ground freezes. They may look dormant, but they’re still alive. If we have a mild, dry winter, continue watering throughout the season. This is most important for trees that were planted this year.
  • Cut back on most perennials. Definitely cut back diseased perennials and remove all foliage and dispose of it somewhere other than the compost, preferably in the trash.