What to do in the garden in fall

What to do in the garden in fall? There are plenty of tasks to help your garden get off to a great start next year.

After the abundance of flowers and bright colors in the garden in summer, fall can seem a bit flat and dull. But it’s not! Fall is more commonly known as autumn in the UK. It is a season rich in harvests and filled with deep reds and yellows as the leaves lose their chlorophyll before the trees drop the leaves to the ground.

Unless your garden becomes covered in snow for weeks on end during the late autumn and winter, there are still tasks you can do right across the vegetable and flower gardens.

Plant onions and garlic

Now is the time to get autumn or fall planted alliums into the ground. This include onion sets, garlic cloves and elephant garlic.

Plant them with twice the amount soil above the clove or set. If your onion set is an inch tall, ensure there are about 2 inches of soil above the set. However, ensure that you plant onion sets and garlic cloves the right way up. This means with the pointy end up and blunt end, with tiny roots, down.

Ensure you buy fall or autumn planting onions for this.

You can use garlic cloves that have started to grow, but be careful when handling them. It is better that the fragile stems are not damaged. They are unlikely to give a great harvest. But if they are the only garlic cloves you have, go ahead and try growing them.

garlic cloves

Cut back herbaceous perennials

Cut down and tidy away herbaceous perennials as they die back over the next couple of months.

For the most tender plants – lift and plant into pots. Take them into a sheltered greenhouse, polytunnel, porch or into your home.

For less tender, but not fully hardy plants. Use their foliage and some compost over the plants to provide some protection against frost.

However, with some plants, like penstemon, allow the stems and any leaves to remain on the plant until spring. This provides the protection they require during the winter.

Divide perennial plants

If herbaceous perennials have become large and non-productive in the center, they can be divided. Either lift the entire plant and chop into sections or cut away sections from the outside of the plant. Replant in a new area. Discard the center of the old plant if it has become congested or non-productive.

You can also divide large herbaceous perennials in pots to create new plants. Replant each piece in a separate pot or container.

Deadhead flowers

Remove dead flowers before they form a seed head. Do this to ensure energy is returned to the root system, to provide the best start for it next year. This also stops too many seedlings of volunteer plants growing in the garden during the next season.

However, if you intend to collect seeds from the plant or seed heads for use, leave them on the plant until they are ready to harvest. Some ideas include using rosehips in the kitchen for syrup, jelly or wine. Or for decorations, like teasels or lunaria, which form a silvery, white disc-like membrane between the seeds.

Gather hedgerow harvests

There are plenty of nuts and berries to harvest during autumn. But there are a few rules to follow.

  • Always be sure that you are allowed to pick from the hedgerow in your area.
  • Do not gather fruits unless you are certain they are safe to consume.
  • Avoid picking food from hedges next to busy roads. There is a risk they are covered with exhaust fumes and contaminents.
  • Avoid picking fruit from low down in hedges in areas where dogs are walked.

Clean tools

High on the priority list of what to do in the garden in fall is to clean and service hand tools and power tools. Store them appropriately for the winter months when they are not in use. Follow manufacturers’ guidelines for cleaning and storage.

Take cuttings

In early fall take semi-ripe cuttings and by the end of autumn, take hard wood cuttings. Cuttings are a simple way to increase the number of plants in your garden. And because they are clones of the parent plant, they will have all the attributes of the parent plant. Therefore, be careful to select healthy and vigorous plants to take cuttings from.

Create new garden beds

Now is a great time to make new beds for growing in next year. But you can also grow in them right away. Whether you choose a raised bed using a physical side or direct on the ground, there’s a great choice of materials to use to suit your garden.

Take winter harvest potatoes under cover

Potato plant growing in large pot

If you have planted potato tubers in tubs and containers to provide a mid-winter crop, take them under cover before the first frost. Seed potatoes planted in August and September will often provide a harvest of new potatoes to serve with your festive meals.

Top dress pot grown trees and shrubs

Remove weeds and the top 3-5cms (1-2 inches) soil or mulch on the top of pots and containers. Add a layer of compost and replace the mulch. If the mulch was heavily laden with weeds that have gone to seed, replace it with a fresh mulch.

Over the winter and spring the top dressing will slowly be incorporated into the soil by worms. The top dressing will add nutrients to the pot to feed plants next year.

Clean glasshouses and polytunnels

Fall is the ideal time to clean the glass in your growing houses, whether a glasshouse or greenhouse (depending on where you live). It is also a good time to clean the plastic covering on a polytunnel or hoophouse.

Cleaning the covers of indoor growing spaces will allow more natural light to reach the plants. And reduce the build-up of fungal and bacterial diseases in the enclosed space.

Plant spring bulbs

If you are still looking for what to do in the garden in fall, think ahead to next spring! Plant bulbs for spring flowers, either direct into the ground or in tubs.

Plant one species and variety per tub or create a colorful display by making a bulb lasagne. Layer different bulbs in a container and cover with compost between each layer of bulbs.

Liz Zorab

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