The garden has been planted and most of your vegetables have been harvested. . .now what? Usually I procrastinate in the garden until the first snow falls and it’s too late to do anything. Not this year. These are the seven chores I’ll be doing for a better garden next year.
Disclaimer: I personally garden in USDA hardiness zone 2/3 and my advice is geared to that zone. I’ve provided some tips for warmer climates where possible. If there is something I’ve missed for your growing zone, please share it with us in the comments.
Buy Dirt and Mulch for Next Year
If your local garden centre has any dirt or mulch left, now is the time to get it on sale. Don’t worry if you can’t put it in your garden just yet. Those bags will keep until spring.
I find it helpful to store a bag of dirt, fertilizer, and my small pots downstairs so they are ready when it’s time to start my seeds in the spring. No trekking outside to the garden shed in minus 40 for this girl!! Not that I’ve done that before, or anything.
Cut Down Plants
If you’re short on time, you can save this chore for spring. At the very least, pull out all of the plants in your pots and add them to your compost pile.
Related: How to Harvest and Store Onions
Mark Perennial Locations & Take Pictures
There is nothing worse in your gardening life than planting something new, only to realize its inches away from an established plant that’s going to overshadow it. This is especially important if you’ve moved into a new home with an established yard.
Take in Bulbs for Overwintering
Dahlias, calla lilies, and gladiolas all need to come inside for the winter. Unless you’re in USDA hardiness zone 8 or higher.
To store, dig up the bulbs and remove all dirt. store them in a cool, dry place like a basement or crawl space. Anywhere that won’t get below zero degrees. Check your bulbs periodically over the winter and throw away any that are starting to rot.
Transplant Perennials and Plant Spring Bulbs
Now is the time to transplant peonies, astilbes, bleeding hearts, Irises, day lilies, lily of the valley, and asiatic lilies. All of these flowers can be transplanted in spring, but you’ll have a better first year of establishment if you do it in the fall.
Make sure your newly transplanted perennial gets lots of water until the snow falls.
Head over to your local garden centre for spring bulbs like daffodils, hyacinth, tulips, and allium. Planting in spring is too late because these bulbs need the cool winter to flower.. For zones 9 and 10, you may need to dig up these bulbs and store them in a fridge over the winter.Winter is coming! Find out what you can do now to make gardening easier next spring.Click To Tweet
Cover Tender Shrubs
I live in a climate where no one wraps their shrubs for the winter. However, I know in other parts of North America this is standard practice. Here’s an old but good video showing how to wrap trees:
Winterize Your Strawberries
Strawberries are hardy to zone 2, but they require some extra care and attention in the fall to make sure they return in the Spring. Here’s what to do to make sure your strawberries don’t die.
Harvest tender vegetables before the first frost
Tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, and peppers all need to be picked before the first frost, even if they are not ripe. Check the weather forecast daily. Some years I’ve had to harvest everything as early as September 3rd, and this year I was able to wait until September 19th. (The average first frost is September 15th in my area.)
If the daily low gets to just above freezing and you live in the country or are worried about the temperature dipping lower than expected, you can cover your plants with old sheets.
P.S. Root vegetables are just fine in the ground during a frost. In fact, carrots taste better after the first hard frost, so leave them in the ground without regret!
P.P.S. For whatever reason, potatoes don’t follow this rule. If you leave them in the ground during a killing frost, the taste will change and they’ll go mushy. Go figure.Don't leave your tomatoes out in the cold! Pick them before the first frost or cover with sheets.Click To Tweet
Make Your Own Compost
I’m not talking about your compost bin. Although if you have one, that is an excellent start. Collect all of the leaves you rake up and leave them outside in garbage bags over the winter. When spring comes, spread them out over your garden and rototill them in for an excellent compost.
Collect Annual Seeds
You can save yourself a large expense next spring if you plant heirloom varieties and learn how to collect your own seeds. Tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and peppers are all really easy vegetables to start collecting from. As for flowers? Here are 5 of the easiest annual flowers to harvest seeds from. Perfect for the beginner seed saver.
Like saving money? Who doesn’t?! Here are the Fall garden chores that will save you money next Spring.
Is there anything I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments what you do in the fall to make things easier in the spring!
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A huge thank you and shout out to my friend Paige of Blush Beauty and Photography. She had the unenviable task of making an almost 5 months pregnant lady look not-pregnant and feel good about herself. If you’re in Saskatoon and looking for a photographer she is your girl. She is also really amazing with autistic kids, as she was able to get my son to look at the camera for our family pictures.
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Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.