University of Illinois Extension

Time for Fall Garden Clean Up

Fall is coming and it will soon be time to put the garden to ‘bed’ for the winter, said Sharon Yiesla, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in Lake County.
“Here are some things that should be done to get the garden ready for the dormant season,” she said.

Clean up vegetable gardens and annual flower beds: Harvest all usable vegetables and annual flowers. Leftover debris can be tilled into soil to decay and enrich the soil or it can be placed into the compost pile. Clean up weeds as they can harbor diseases and insects. Add compost and other organic material to enrich the soil. Mulch beds to prevent erosion during winter.

Clean up perennial flower beds: Remove weeds that may harbor diseases and insects. After a couple of frosts have occurred, mulch the perennial bed, if needed. About 2-3 inches of mulch should be adequate. Plants can be cut back now or in early spring. New perennials can be planted in fall and established perennials can be divided. September is the best time for this, since air temperatures are cool, but the soil is still warm enough to encourage root development.

Tree and shrub maintenance: Prune deciduous trees after they go dormant (lose their leaves) or in early spring. Late summer and fall flowering shrubs can also be pruned after they go dormant. DO NOT prune spring flowering shrubs in fall (they already have their flower buds). Deciduous trees and shrubs can be fertilized after they go dormant in October. Continue regular watering as long as the ground is not frozen. Watering is especially important for evergreens.

Miscellaneous: Plant spring flowering bulbs in early fall (mid-September to mid-October). Clean garden tools so they will be ready for next season. See to proper storage of seeds, fertilizer and garden chemicals. Drain and store garden hoses. Consider composting as a method to deal with garden debris and autumn leaves.