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Don’t skip these 5 crucial tasks when prepping your fall garden

I know… was a long, hot summer. The last thing you want to think about is a fall chore checklist. But trust me, these simple tasks will help you get a head start for next spring. Come on, give yourself that final push. Fall leaves and cool breezes are upon us. Let’s get this done.

Order and plan for fall planting


Photo credit: Debbie Wolfe at The Prudent Garden

If you didn’t get enough gardening in this summer, there are plenty of vegetables that grow well in cool, fall weather. The vegetables include green onions, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale and many more. Plant them early so the seeds get a chance to germinate. To ensure proper planting time, add two weeks to the listed “number of days to harvest” on the seed packet. Then count back that far from your area’s average first frost. Your fall garden can produce until Thanksgiving!

Preserve and cure vegetables


Photo credit: Debbie Wolfe at The Prudent Garden

There’s nothing more satisfying than enjoying your garden’s bounty in the middle of the winter. Preserve your garden veggies by canning, freezing and drying so you can add them in various dishes later in the year. Many root vegetables like potatoes, winter squash and onions need to be “cured” for long-term storage. Curing involves holding produce in specific climate conditions for a short duration before moving them to long-term storage. This will help the vegetables keep longer.

Remove spent plants

Tomato plant

Photo credit: Debbie Wolfe at The Prudent Garden

You do need to remove spent plants, whether you are planning a fall garden or not. Usually at the end of the summer growing season, you will see a decrease in production. Go ahead and harvest the rest of the best produce and pull the plant. Even if there are little babies still on the plant, chances are there will not be enough time for them to reach full maturity before the days get shorter and temperatures cooler. For plants like tomatoes, it is OK to top them off — to cut the main stems of the plants to keep them from growing further. This makes the plant focus on letting the tomatoes already on the vine ripen instead of continuing to grow.

Plant cover crops

Fall Gardening Checklist

Photo credit: Gail Langellotto

If you do not plan to have a fall garden, it’s good to plant a cover crop. Cover crops are green manure and help improve your soil. They are very easy to plant and require very basic care. In addition, they will keep your garden from looking bare in the cooler months. You can plant several varieties through the fall and winter. These plants include fall rye, clover, oats, barley and more. When spring arrives, till the cover crops into the soil. Your soil is nourished and ready to receive new plants.

Clean and repair garden tools

Fall Gardening Checklist

Photo credit: Debbie Wolfe at The Prudent Garden

Give you garden tools some TLC. They worked hard for you this summer, so clean your garden tools. Remove any dirt and rust that has built up on your tools over the growing season. Give them a good cleaning with a stiff brush to remove any dirt, and rinse them off with your hose. If the wood handles on your tools have seen better days, try rubbing them with boiled linseed oil. If the handle is cracked, don’t throw away the tool. Consider replacing the handle. You can get replacement handles at garden centers and home improvement stores.

Give yourself a pat on the back for having a successful summer garden season. Relax and enjoy the fall weather. You can start dreaming of next year’s garden.

More in fall gardening

Starting a fall garden
Growing a fall garden
Fall planting guide

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