Fall Garden Tips: How I Care for My Fall Garden
Learn about some important fall garden tips. Don’t let fall gardening chores stress you out. This is how I take care of my garden in the fall, including organization, clean up, various chores, gardening, and even letting some things wait until spring.
Fall Gardening: the Time of Transition and Balance
Oh sweet, beautiful fall season. As a summer-hater, I rejoice when fall returns to my life. And yet, I am also always tempted to stress out. Fall in the garden can be….very hectic.
Fall gardening season is a delicate balance between: canning and preserving summer’s harvest, gardening/tending late summer crops, planting fall garden crops, cleaning up the garden for winter, and also doing normal garden chores like weeding and keeping pest invasions under control.
*Whew* That’s a lot of things to do at the same time in the garden!
My Advice on Keeping Fall in the Garden Enjoyable…
It can be really easy to get stressed in the garden in the fall. It can also be very easy to see fall season as a time for “fall garden chores” or “fall garden tasks” or other such negative words. I hate seeing that type of wording when I’m on reading articles from Pinterest about fall gardening. “Chores” and “Tasks” makes gardening seem like some common work you need to do around the house. Instead, I like to simply view it as “Fall Gardening” and I was careful to word this post around “fall garden tips” instead of other wording.
Here’s my best advice for keeping fall gardening enjoyable instead of just a common chore: do just a bit of fall gardening at a time. I’m serious!
Almost all of the fall garden tips I mention below can be done at any point in the fall…many of them can even wait until after a frost or two! And for some of them, you can wait until that antsy early spring time, when you can’t WAIT to get in the garden again.
Take your time, and even if you just spend 10-15 minutes in the garden each day, make sure you spend even THAT much time balanced between getting stuff done and just enjoying your garden.
Sit on a garden bench and watch the last hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies drinking up the nectar from your last zinnias and other flowers in the vegetable patch.
Watch the birds (ahem…or squirrels) at your nearby bird feeder, as they prepare for winter. Look for toads and preying mantis and other beneficial critters in your garden.
Sit. Look at the vibrant colors. Smell the crispness in the air. Love the fall season in your garden…and find a way to balance getting stuff done with enjoying the moment.
My Top 8 Fall Garden Tips:
This is a list of the ways I take care of my fall garden. While these are my best fall garden tips, it’s always possible that I missed some. Feel free to comment below with a list of ways YOU take care of your fall garden! <3
1. Fall Garden Tips: Summer Garden Cleanup
There is a HUGE debate between gardeners about summer garden cleanup. Some gardeners say: “remove all dead plants or you will be at risk for fungal and pest issues next spring!” and other gardeners say: “do NOT remove all of your dead plants, just the ones that were sickly and diseased. Leave the rest for shelter for beneficial bugs and animals!”.
So which is the right answer? I don’t know. I can see the logic behind both arguments. However, as I mention in my Early Spring Gardening Chores article, I lean more towards leaving healthy plants to die naturally over the winter.
I’m a softie for beneficial bugs, spiders, frogs/toads, etc., so I leave my healthy plants alone until spring. This is usually my herbs, annual flowers (especially my zinnias), and a few vegetables that are doing okay. I pull out my vulnerable plants, you know, the ones that ALWAYS have pest issues, like my tomato plants, zucchini/squash family, and remaining bush/pole beans.
I have raised garden beds, thanks to the clay soil of South Carolina, and I always leave ONE whole raised bed to grow zinnias every year. I always ignore the zinnia garden bed until spring. Why? Because they are healthy and beautiful all the way until the first frost, and then they fall down and make a wonderful natural mulch to protect the ground from erosion in that raised bed. And when I take a closer look, I always see the evidence of holes where the garden toads have dug down for the winter.
I haven’t had any major problems from leaving some plants to die naturally and only pulling the sickly/vulnerable plants. And it makes my heart happy to think that I might have helped some beneficial bugs and animals. However, you decide for yourself what makes sense: if it’s easier for you to clean up the entire garden in one day/week, then do that. I personally find it less stressful to clean only a few sections of my garden at a time.
2. Maintaining and Harvest Late Summer Vegetable Crops
As I mentioned earlier, fall gardening is a mixture of prepping for the winter, planting for the fall, and still harvesting summer garden crops. Since I live in a mild garden zone (8a), I harvest peppers in my garden all the way until the first frost, which is usually around mid-November. And of course, I have to keep finding ways to preserve my peppers as well as keeping those pesky bugs away.
There is also lots of squash family plants to harvest: pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, etc. Plus tomatoes and pole beans, and other summer crops that go all the way until the first frost.
Don’t forget to consider saving seeds from your favorite summer vegetables/fruits! This is a great time to gather seeds from your favorite tomatoes, peppers, summer kale, etc.
3. Fall Garden Tips: Keep up on the Weeding!
I don’t know many gardeners that love weeding the garden. When I have meat rabbits on our homestead, I don’t mind weeding that much because I just put the weeds in a bucket and bring them to the rabbits, and they are super adorable and happy about getting their “weed treats”. However, I don’t have meat rabbits all year long (they aren’t good with the heat), so yeah, weeding gets a bit annoying for me, too.
It can be a challenge to find time to weed the garden in the fall, but it needs to be done! I have found that many types of weeds go to seed in the fall, and if you don’t pull those buggers, they are gonna drop their seeds in your garden and leave a future disaster behind. Sigh…
I have found that it helps to remind myself that in winter, I’m not weeding at all. There is a joy to each season, and winter gardening is amazing since there are not much weeds to worry about. So if it helps, keep reminding yourself that fall is the LAST time to weed for a few months (or longer, if you live in a cold climate). You can do it!
Just weed a bit at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Remember to take breaks and enjoy your garden, too.
4. Fall Garden Tips: Properly Store Your Garden Tools
Even if you live in a milder climate like me, you should take care of your garden tools at least once a year! I find that fall is the best time to clean up and store the garden tools.
Here are some fall garden tips for your tools:
- Gather up your tomato cages and put them away properly, out of rain and sunlight.
- Gather up your stakes from your summer tall plants, and put those away, too.
- Put away garden hoses, drip irrigation supplies, watering cans, and any other water gardening devices that can be broken from frost/cold temps. Warm/Mild climates: consider getting some type of faucet protectors, since you might still use the water for the garden in fall/winter.
- Clean, sharpen, and organize your gardening tools. Here’s a great tutorial I found on cleaning and sharpening garden tools.
5. Fall Garden Tips: Improve Your Garden Soil
Fall season is a great time to test your garden soil. Check with your local University to learn about a good soil testing place in your area. It can take awhile before you get your soil sample tests back, so getting it done in the fall means you will know what to do to improve your soil before spring planting. Learn more about How to Properly Test Your Soil in this post.
You should also consider adding more compost to your garden in the fall. Learn more about how to make compost here. I often find my raised beds need some refilling by the end of summer, so I use this as a time to add more compost to the beds.
Also, leaves are a GREAT item for both your compost pile and your garden, so naturally, fall season is the perfect time to increase your compost pile and also fill your garden with leaves. The leaves will not only break down into good soil, it is also a natural mulch to protect your soil over the winter.
6. Add Fall Garden Vegetable Crops
Check out my Fall Gardening Planting Guide for inspiration on what to grow in your garden in the fall season. There are some plants, like rutabagas and broccoli, that you might not be able to plant in your garden anymore (you have to start them from seed in late summer), but some super easy fall gardening plants can still be grown! This includes my beloved arugula, kale, chards, cabbages, and other lettuces.
And, of course, one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden is planted REALLY late in fall. Yep, I’m talking about garlic (learn how to grow garlic here). In my garden zone (8a), I don’t plant garlic until early November. It’s nice to have a crop that you can postpone until you’ve done other urgent things on the fall garden list. 🙂
It CAN be a bit tricky with planting a fall garden when also having your summer garden AND leaving some beds to rest without cleaning them up, all at the same time. I use my garden planning skills and my crop rotation guide to keep things very organized. Check out the mapping tips below, too…
7. Add Cover Crops to Your Garden
I highly recommend making a map of your garden plot on a piece of paper. Now, with one color highlighter, highlight the spots on the map where your summer crops are still giving you harvests. Grab another color marker and highlight your fall garden spots. If you’ve left some plants to die naturally in your garden, highlight those areas as well. Any other empty spots? Add some cover crops in the empty spots to help prevent soil erosion and to also give your soil a nutrient boost.
Read more about Cover Crops in this article. Cover crops are a great way to fill up the blank spots in your garden for the rest of the fall and winter. Do some careful research of the cover crops and grow the ones that will help your soil nutrient needs.
8. Make Careful Notes in Your Garden Journal
Go grab a pumpkin latte or chai tea and sit in your garden. Take some sips and relax. Think about your gardening year as you relax. What went well, what didn’t work, which varieties were the best and the worst, etc. Take out your garden journal and write it all down. In my How to Plan a Garden post, I show pictures of my garden binder, which I use instead of a garden journal, but you use whatever you like.
It is really important to keep notes of what plant varieties did really well and which ones did not do well. Trust me, you won’t remember most of it by the time it’s time to order new seeds. Take time to remember your highs and your lows and write things down so you can LEARN from everything and have an even better garden next year.
Reflecting on your garden season is a delightful way to celebrate fall season in the garden. Make sure you enjoy fall in you garden. That is my most important fall garden tip. <3
Wrapping Up My Fall Garden Tips…
Did I forget any major fall garden tips and activities? Please let me know. I can openly admit that I am a learning gardener, and I can always learn MORE about how to have a great gardening season.
I hope my fall garden tips help you enjoy your garden as much as possible. There are so many things you CAN do in your garden in the fall, but if you are ever starting to stress in the garden instead of enjoying your garden, just remember that the fall garden activities can wait. Don’t let the stress of the season keep you from enjoying your gardening time.
My Blessing to you: May You Find Joy and Knowledge in the Land. No matter what season.
More Gardening Tips:
- How to Recover From a Poor Gardening Season
- The Ultimate Gardening Guide
- 10 Plants for Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden
- Pondering Permaculture