You and your fall garden will benefit when you give your plants the same TLC in fall as you do in spring and summer. Wildlife will find food and shelter, weeds will be easier to control, and plant diseases as well as pests will no longer drive you crazy. Follow Organic Gardening's guide to the tasks and tools to help you through the season’s finale—and you can thank us come spring.
Home gardeners should first identify their pests and then act to reduce the potential for exacerbating these problems through overwintering, says Tom Green, Ph.D., president of the IPM Institute of North America.
Dr. Green’s Tips for Your Fall Garden
- Remove all rotten fruit from the ground around trees—infestations last through winter.
- Mulch to maintain soil quality, using weeds (but not those with seeds), cocoa hulls, grass clippings, leaves, and straw.
- Plant cover crops after harvest to correct soil compaction.
- Confuse pathogens by mapping out a garden plan for crop rotation.
- Protect perennials from frost heaving by mulching after the ground freezes.
- Protect ornamentals such as azaleas and berry bushes from bud-eating deer with deer netting.
Clean out old annuals and weeds before seeds drop.
Cut back spent perennials that create hiding places for slugs, snails, and other pests. Prevent problem seeds from spreading.
Leave dried flowers, ornamental grasses, and seed heads that look good and provide food for birds.
Plant a fall cover crop.
Build a simple compost bin for fall leaves. Add fresh leaves and grass cuttings to your compost and cover until spring.
Rake up and dispose of leaves around roses, apple trees, and plants susceptible to powdery mildew and other pests and diseases that overwinter on debris.
Remove diseased tomato, potato, and squash foliage to prevent disease. Do not toss these plants in the compost. Bag and discard.
Remove dead branches from roses and fruit trees (no pruning yet).
Mulch the garden with chopped-up leaves and grass clippings.
Plant spring bulbs.
Clean tool blades with vegetable oil and handles with sandpaper.