Fall Gardening


It’s “Fall in the Garden” again. Seems too soon, but here we are again. We’re definitely passed summer, no matter what anyone says.


I hope you brought the houseplants in two weeks ago. If you were in denial, do it now so that at least the plants, now properly washed, trimmed, and potted, will have had time to adjust to the change of seasons before the heat goes on in October. See Issue 76.

Stop fertilizing your indoor plants, expect tropical plants in active growth. Start cutting back on the water for your cacti and succulents. See Issue 32.

Use the cuttings to start holiday gift plants. (See Issue 28 )


It’s time to start the fall clean up. Leaving it all to the last minute works for some but you may prefer to do a little each week.

Leave the flower stalks, seed pods and crisp, dried foliage that will be good fall and winter interest and food for the birds. Issue 92

Remove softening, mushy dead leaves that could rot or build up a thick, air-tight coating to smother roots.

Be especially careful to remove the foliage that might be harboring diseases. For example, the leaves of the plants that had powdery mildew this summer. Iris leaves can harbor leaf borers so it’s good to remove these leaves. Roses get all kinds of diseases, so the more you rake up the leaves, the better off you are. Potentially infected material goes in a black bag; not the compost pile.

Leave the mulch! The point of mulch is to cover the ground year round. So don’t rake it up in the fall. You may need to add extra mulch for winter protection after the ground freezes but that’s a different story.


Now that the woody plants have completed their growth cycle, you can prune if you wish. Skip the spring bloomers – they get pruned after flowering next year. With flowering plants, always check to see if they flower on “old wood” – if so know that fall pruning is cutting off next year’s flowers so proceed with care. Dead and diseased branches should go. However, think carefully about pruning live wood now. Many think it best to wait until early spring (February and March), so that you can take into account any winter damage. See Issue 105.


Now, here’s the fun part. Fall gardens can have the best color of the year. See Issue 84

So make sure you’ve inter-planted your spring and summer bloomers with the treasures of fall. Boneset, goldenrod, asters, native sunflowers, grasses, cone flowers, hardy begonias, milkweed pods, leadwort, guara, winterberry, the list goes on and on. A quick trip to the garden center will usually reward you with a great plant or two.

Don’t forget to set out some pansies for late season color. See Issue 33.

Think about planting some shrubs, now or in the spring, Issue 78. And of course, put in your bulbs. See Issues 29, 51, and 71.