Autumn Gardening Check List

Horticulturist Erica Glasener lists exactly what you need to do for a successful autumn gardening season.

Posted by Erica Glasener | Sep 29, 2011
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Jeff Osborn/stock.xchngFall is an ideal time to evaluate your garden, both the successes and the failures. And, depending on what part of the country you live in, it’s also a good time to add new plants including shrubs, trees, perennials, winter annuals and seeds.  If perennials are too large, divide and replant or share divisions with friends. As trees and shrubs begin to drop their leaves the design and layout of your landscape becomes more evident; perhaps you will decide to add some structure such as an arbor, a fence or a bench. 

Clean up, topdress, divide and transplant

1. Remove and dispose of any diseased foliage of perennials, roses, shrubs and trees.  This will reduce populations of overwintering insects and help limit disease problems next spring and summer.

2. Send soil samples to your local extension service so that you can know what type of amendments you need to add before you plant this fall or next spring.

3. Rake up leaves of shrubs and trees and add to your compost pile. 

4. Cut back and divide spring blooming perennials. 

5. Topdress perennials, trees and shrubs with 2 inches of organic material (such as compost ― check with your local extension for the best type for your soil).  Keep compost away from trunks and stems to reduce disease potential.  

6. Transplant divisions to desired location.  Prepare the area (adding soil amendments) ahead of time.  Water after you transplant and throughout the fall as needed (let the weather guide you).  


1. Add spring blooming bulbs (including daffodils, tulips and crocus) once the soil temperatures have cooled to 60 degrees F. at a depth of 3 to 4 inches.  If you have problems with deer or other critters like chipmunks, choose bulbs that are “deer and rodent resistant” including daffodils and summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum).  Make sure that the soil has 1/3 organic material and is well drained. For gardeners in Zone 8 or 9, some spring bulbs require a pre-chilling. As I said on, a social network for people with home & garden projects, Brent and Becky's Bulbs is a great source for bulbs.

2. Plant container-grown or balled and burlapped trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. In southern gardens you can plant well into November, but in northern gardens you should get plants into the ground by early October so that they will acclimate before winter weather arrives. 

3. Add a 1 to 2 inch layer of mulch after planting, keeping it away from trunks and stems. 

4. Add winter annuals in southern gardens including pansies, snapdragons, parsley as well as ornamental kale and cabbages.  Plant before November so plants can establish roots before winter.  Keep plants watered on a regular basis, and adjust amounts according to the weather. 

5. In southern gardens, plant seeds for poppies and larkspur in October. Prepare soil, rake it out and then sow seeds directly.  Do not cover seeds. Seedlings should appear as early as November.  In northern gardens, wait until February to sow spring blooming annuals.   

6. In southern gardens (Zone 7 and warmer), you can still add winter crops to the vegetable garden like lettuce, arugula, kale and spinach. 

7. In northern gardens, you can grow winter salad greens in cold frames and under row cover. Plant winter salad greens now, because once the temperature drops below 50 degrees F, it takes longer for seeds to germinate.

Erica Glasener is a Networx - - writer. Read more articles like this one - - on

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