Tidying the Autumn Garden …for a jump start next spring!

Tidying the Autumn Garden
  • Posted October 23, 2013

This is the time of year when our garden beds once bursting with glorious blooms and well-behaved foliage swaying in the summer breeze are beginning to look tired and unruly. Some look downright dreadful. There, I said it! You may feel like turning your back, on a mess like this. Don’t despair. The most untidy garden bed can be reclaimed within hours.  Following just a few simple steps will help to restore order for an even more splendid display next year!

fall tidy collage

compost NEATEN UP   Perennial grasses along many other perennials plants, such as sedum or coneflower hold seed heads that can be left to add winter interest as well as provide a winter seed source for wild birds. Most others are best pruned back to about two or three inches. This helps insulate plant crowns through the winter months. Pull any annuals that are finished for the season. Compost the healthy ones and toss any diseased plants with your trash.
weeding WIPE OUT WEEDS   Though you were diligent pulling the dreaded weeds throughout the season, once you’ve tidied up you’ll notice some that got past you! For the more difficult, perennial weeds with strong root systems, loosen the soil around them with a garden fork, lifting them carefully.  Take special effort to remove as much of the root as possible, as this will ensure fewer weeds the following season. The weeds with roots close to the surface can be eliminated by lightly scraping a hoe across the soil to loosen them enabling you to easily pull them out by hand.
fall planting PAUSE AND PLANT   Now that you have restored order to your garden, take a moment to reflect on what excited you about your garden this year. Which plants were successful? Are there some gaps you could fill in? Autumn is the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses, not to mention that garden centers offer discounts on them this time of the year. There’s plenty of time for them to get established and form a strong root system.  Tucking spring flowering bulbs in between your established perennials will fill in some of those gaps and provide loads of color early in the season.
fall mulch WRAPPING UP   Adding mulch and compost is the secret to a spectacular garden no matter where or what you are growing. Finish off by adding a couple of inches of mulch to top of the soil. Use special care to leave a gap around the plants. Piling mulch on top of your plants can promote disease. Mulching dresses up the garden bed, but it also helps to hold in moisture, stop weeds from germinating and improves the soil as it breaks down.

Once you have completed these simple tasks, relax, enjoy winter and think spring! Next year your garden, without a doubt, will reflect the extra effort you’ve invested.
fall garden shot 

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Kay Bishop
About the Author

Kay Bishop is a greenhouse grower/owner, artist, and horticulturist at MasterTag – a horticultural printing company.

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Tidying the Autumn Garden


  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Weeding fork or hoe
  • Pruners or garden scissors
  • New plants
  • Mulch