13 autumn gardening tips

Posted on: September 5, 2013

(Source: Rightathome.com)

Autumn is the time to visualize your spring garden and plant accordingly. Here are our outdoor “to-dos” that reap the fruits of fall, plan for spring and keep your autumn garden aglow.

Flash some color. 

Replace spent annuals with fall-blooming hardy mums; these showy perennials will provide color for many weeks. Properly planted, maintained and winterized, mums will colorfully enhance your landscape for years to come.

Check out Dutch treats.

Fall is “now or never” time to plant spring bulbs. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus and other fall bulbs will arrive soon from Holland. Shop early for the best selection. Then dream up a new color scheme or enhance the old.

Give a tree a chance. 

Fall is the best season to plant fruit trees such as apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and figs. Young trees should be staked to prevent roots from being pulled by fall and winter winds.

Protect the weak. 

As perennials fade away, mark their locations with small sticks. Some might not be apparent after the winter and could be disturbed by spring cultivating. If you haven’t brought in your house plants yet, do so before you heat your home to give them time to adjust. A thorough washing first helps get rid of pests.

Cook up a garden.

Some veggies can be sown in fall to overwinter, resulting in earlier crops the following year: peas, fava beans, hardy spinach, spring cabbage, Calabrese, leaf beets, or Swiss chard. Spring onions can be sown in late summer and early fall for overwintering. Sow hardy lettuce in a cold greenhouse.

Herbs on the go.

Dig up your rosemary, basil, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley and chives to grow them inside as house plants. Keep them in a cool, sunny spot, and allow the soil to dry out before watering. Snip off the leaves as needed in the kitchen, but do not strip them completely. For herbs that have grown vigorously through the summer, cut them back about halfway and then dry or freeze the extra harvest or share it with friends. Herb crafts such as lavender soap and sachets are great as gifts.

Tomatoes in reverse.

If unripe tomatoes are still hanging on the vine and frost is fast approaching, pull the vines out by the roots and hang them upside down in a cool, dark place to finish ripening.

Fruit plants. 

Transplant rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries well before the first light frosts so they can develop roots. Rhubarb and strawberries can quickly deplete the soil of nutrients, so find new locations for them every three or four years.

Cider rules.

Harvest those apples now for a delicious cider brew. You can use blemished apples, but avoid adding too many with open wounds or bruises. If rot has already set in, it could affect the taste and longevity of the cider.


Sunflower seeds are best dried on the plants. The seeds will be difficult to remove if you harvest the plants before they die naturally. If birds are a problem, cover the heads with cheesecloth for protection.

Seed grass now.

Fall is the best time to seed new grass. Warm days and cool nights supported by regular rainfall or irrigation make for ideal growing conditions. Spruce up spotty patches or plant a full lawn.

Raking it over.

Know which leaves to rake and which to “leave” behind. Must-rake: leaves on sidewalks (too slippery); perennial beds (cause crown rot); and lawns (attract fungi insects). Leave-behind: leaves under trees and shrubs, and on sturdy ground covers (over time they self-destruct into needed compost). Invest in a clog-free rake with a wave-shaped tooth design to keep leaves from sticking. Use an electric blower only when it is absolutely necessary, such as on the roof. And protect your back from strain while raking by moving your feet rather than bending over continuously from one spot.

Go pro.

Hire a landscape designer this fall! Scheduling is less chaotic than in spring, and designers have more time to answer questions and develop smaller projects. Start early to avoid missing the planting season, because considerable lead time is necessary (visiting the site, drawing up plans, making estimates, etc.).