Fall Garden Chores

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Contributed by Dr. Slade Howell, Watauga County Extension Master Gardener

We tend to equate the advent of fall colors with the termination of garden activities. To the contrary, autumn is the starting point for a successful garden in the coming year. Since these endeavors are not as intuitive as in the spring, a list can be helpful.Fall Gardening

  1. Clean up the garden by removing remaining summer plants and waste. This removes a source of residual pests, eggs and spores, thus reducing the need for pesticides the next spring. In addition, you still need to remove the weeds. This reduces the number of weed seeds that will be able to germinate the following spring.
  1. Apply mulch, decomposing leaves and/or compost. This adds insulation, reduces compacting, diminishes weed seed germination, and adds organic matter to the soil.
  1. Fall planting: In addition to cool weather crops, which should be planted early August to early September, it is time to plant fall bulbs, such as flowering varieties, garlic, rhubarb, etc…
  1. Plan and design for next year. Is it time to relocate the garden to a spot with more sun exposure? Repair or replace the existing borders of the garden, or add terracing? Fall is a great time to take notice of overcrowded perennial plants. They can then be divided and transplanted when the weather is cooler and there is less stress on the plant.
  1. Collect seed. This is an optimal time to gather and label for next year’s planting. It’s also an ideal time to obtain cuttings to be propagated inside over the winter. Hardwood cuttings can be taken while dormant and placed in moist medium in an above freezing location to start forming roots.
  1. Collect and mail soil samples. Correcting pH and adding needed amenities to the soil, to allow incorporation over the winter, begins with obtaining soil samples. Collection containers and instructions are available at the Watauga Cooperative Extension Office, located at 971 West King Street in Boone. Soil tests are performed by the NC Department of Agriculture and are free until the end of  November, however you must pay to mail them to the lab in Raleigh.
  1. Tool care: Clean, sharpen, oil and store as needed, and you should be ready to go come spring.