Fall gardening: Which yard work needs doing?

worker cleaning up the fall garden from foliage Colorful autumn leaves announce the start of the fall as well as the final round of your annual yard work. To ensure your green oasis flourishes come next season, you should pay particular attention to your yard work in the late summer-, fall- as well as early winter months (i.e. September to December). Our blog article will describe which yard work you need to take care of to help your plants through winter and ready for spring. With our practical fall gardening checklist for yard work, you can keep on top of the workload.

Key fall gardening activities

1. What needs pruning in fall?

Hedges

Pruning your hedges is one of the most important fall gardening activities. It is best to perform the autumnal topiary pruning from mid-October to early November. In this period, plants are already in their resting phase, which means they will take less damage during pruning. Late afternoon is the optimal time for this when direct sunlight will no longer dry out the cuts you made on the branches. Before pruning, you need to cut damaged and snapped branches and twigs. If your hedge blooms in spring, for example, a Forsythia or a flowering currant, you should prune the hedge in spring after blooming, instead of fall. With a battery-operated hedge trimmer or shears, pruning is particularly easy.

Trees and bushes

man cutting a tree in fall Before winter dormancy sets in, it is time for pruning so that woody plants can rejuvenate and strengthen for the coming season. Not all bushes and trees need pruning, though. While you should cut back birch, poplar, oak, and fruit trees in fall, wooded plants that bloom in spring, such as roses, should be cut in spring. You should remove the following: deadwood, sick branches, and twigs, overlapping or protruding branches. With Autumn fruiting raspberries, you should cut old shoots close to the soil. Cut back blackberries in late fall (October/November) or during frost-free days during early Winter. You should cut roses rather in spring than in fall. Pruning during fall should only be done for very thick rose beds.

Shrubs

Cut withering shrubs down to approximately 4 inches in height. Especially hollyhock and gaillardia will need pruning due to the amount of energy used while in bloom. Shrubs with attractive frutescence and seed pods should not be cut back during fall so that your yard and plots do not appear bare in Autumn and Winter. Many frutescence and seed pods display their decorative impact during Winter. This is particularly true for Stonecrop, Phlomis (Jerusalem sage), Yarrow, Physalis, Rudbeckia, and Echinacea. Ornamental grasses like Chinese reed, Pennisetum, or switchgrass should also be untouched. Not only do the plants look enchanting during frosty days, but they also provide sustenance and protection for animals during the cold months.

2. Garden development in autumn

footpath through the fall garden in beautiful autumn colors Fall is the perfect time to take annual stock of your garden. Which nooks are due for a bit of remodeling? When thinking about changing your yard’s design, always keep plants with particularly decorative fall foliage in mind.

Some of these gorgeous plants are Amur maple, Ginko, barberry, sugarplum, Virginia creeper, chokeberry, and Rhus typhina. Should your yard be lacking in color, you can still add shrubs as late as September and October. The advantage of planting these during Autumn is to visualize what your yard will look like once it is complete. We particularly recommend Michaelmas daisies, which grow, depending on the type, between 10 and 60 inches, and come in white, lavender, pink, red, or violette. Other great flowering shrubs are chrysanthemum and willowleaf sunflower, which can reach over 6 feet. Autumnal flower pots will add a lovely focal point to your yard. Small evergreen shrubs adorned with colorful fruit are the perfect fit. The Gaultheria will carry bright red berries from September until spring. Pernettya shrubs are wintergreen plants that carry white, pink, and crimson berries.

3. Planting and re-planting in fall

Yard work during fall often entails planting and re-planting. You can re-plant robust, hardy shrubs and woody plants until the beginning of December on frost-free days. The following plants are well suited for planting during fall: Asters, hydrangea, forsythia, evergreens like conifers and Rhododendrons, hollyhocks, roses, phlox, weigela, and fruit trees such as apple and pear. Re-plant ideally in early fall. Due to plentiful rainfall during October and November, the soil is perfectly conditioned and moist. When planted accordingly, the new additions to your yard will have plenty of time to take root. Plant frost-susceptible shrubs and bushes such as the catalpa and hibiscus need to in spring.

4. Fall lawn care

man avenging foliage on the lawn in fall Fall lawn care is part of your autumnal garden work, even if you rarely use the lawnmower now that the grass grows much slower. Depending on the weather, you should mow the lawn until October, sometimes even November.

The optimal length for cold temperatures is around 2 inches. Remove debris like branches, twigs, foliage, and fallen fruit regularly so that your lawn won’t be affected by fungal diseases. The easiest way is by using a battery leaf blower. Those blowers usually operate either with a 20V battery, e.g. the Black and Decker 20V Blower LSW 321, or a 40V battery, such as the Ryobi 40V Blower 500 CFM (RY40460).

If the soil is hard-packed, consider airing it with the help of a lawn aerator. Special tools are available for use in large areas. Resow patches of bare lawn as early as possible in fall. Keep the repaired patches moist for at least three weeks. Autumn is the perfect time for a fresh start and to completely lay a new lawn. Be advised that your yard will need a different type of fertilizer in Autumn. It is best to use Potassium based fertilizers that are low in nitrogen to prevent ugly spots from pink snow mold.

5. Fall gardening to cold-sensitive plants

A large part of taking care of your yard in autumn is to winterproof your plants. Using foliage is a great way to utilize material already available. Place a fair amount of foliage around the roots of trees, shrubs, and plants. The foliage will protect the plants not only from the cold but also from too much moisture. Rainwater is repelled and will trickle into the soil at the edge of your leaf mold. Frost-susceptible plants like azaleas, camellias, and young fruit trees need extra protection. To keep these plants from succumbing to frost during freezing temperatures, cover them with a layer of fleece, jute, or coconut matting. Binding the trunks and stems with a jute tape will additionally protect your plants from tension cracks. Add a layer of 6-10 inches of compost or soil around the stem of your roses. Place potted plants onto insulating mats or wood.

6. Planting bulbs

Plant the bulbs of spring bloomers ideally in September or October so that roots can take before the first frost. Plants that bloom in spring are snowdrops, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, Eranthis, and allium, among others. Keep the bulbs in a cool and dry place until planting. Plant bulbs twice as deep as they are high. Often you can find flower bulbs at significantly reduced prices during November, which still gives you time for planting as long as the ground is not yet frozen.

7. Digging plots and hoeing in fall

spade in the potting soil You ideally dig new plots in autumn and spring. During winter, frost will break the soil apart, promoting soil friability. Digging is often more comfortable in Autumn when the soil is looser than during the wet spring season. You will need to hoe your yard if you want to either make a new plot or prepare a plot for the next crop of plants. By hoeing, you push the vegetation further into the soil, breaking down promoting healthy and nutritious soil. For digging and hoeing, you will need a good spade or spade fork, if possible, made from stainless metal and sturdy wood. Combination tools made from plastics are less suitable and tend to break at the joints.

Our fall gardening checklist

We will summarize and collate the information from our article for an easy overview in the following list.

IDActivity Recommended time
1Cutting hedges, trees, bushes, and shrubs in fallOctober - November
2Designing the yard for next year September - October
3Planting and re-planting October - early December
4Fall lawn care (aerating, cleansing, repairing)September - early November
5Installing cold-protection October - November
6Planting bulbs of early bloomers September - October
7Digging and hoeing plots and bedsSeptember - early October