At the beginning of October my mid-south, zone 8A garden is still full of blooms but by Halloween, it begins its steady decline toward dormancy. So I start the month in harvest mode and transition into doing a serious fall cleanup by the 15th or so. The to-do list is getting shorter, but the tasks seem to require a little more elbow grease. That’s okay because there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing a garden tidied up for its winter nap.
Here are a few tips to help you get your own garden ready for bed.
- Cut back perennial foliage after a killing freeze. For a wildlife-friendly garden, cut back plants that have had disease problems during the growing season but leave stems and seed heads that will provide food and shelter for birds.
- Mark areas where hardy volunteers have dropped their seeds so that next spring you can be on the lookout for the seedlings.
- When using dried flowers with fuzzy seed heads, spray them with hairspray to keep them from shattering.
- Rake up and remove any leaves on your lawn. It is important to remove dead leaves because over time they will form a dense mat that smothers your grass.
- Clean and oil garden tools before storing for winter.
- Protect your water features from fall leaves with netting. Stretch the netting over the water surface and secure the edges. Remove the leaves that land on the netting on a regular basis.
- Before you put away your mower, drain gasoline and take it to the shop for any repairs needed. It’s also a good time to have the blade sharpened and balanced.
- Use hardware cloth to wrap around the base of small fruit trees and roses. This will protect them from rodents.
- Transplant deciduous trees and shrubs after the leaves have fallen.
- Pot up amaryllis bulbs now for indoor blooms during the holidays.
- Hill soil to a height of 8 to 10 inches around roses for winter protection. Mulch after the ground freezes.
- Save packets of half-used seeds in airtight containers in a cool dry place.
- In my zone 7 garden and other mild winter climates, it is best to sow larkspur in mid-fall because the seeds need cool soil temperatures to germinate (50 to 60 degrees F).
- Plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and globe alliums.
Good to Know
I garden in zone 8A. Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November. The summers are long and hot. I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary. Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.