Putting the garden to bed simply means getting rid of the mess, cleaning up what’s left, packing away the things you won’t need until spring and making sure everything is ready to go when you need it.
Cleaning up debris, scouting for pests and disease and suppressing weeds will mean that much less work to do in the spring, when there are so many other tasks to be done – and all at once. The cooler weather makes Autumn an ideal season to spend some time in the garden.
Cutting back – Most perennials can be cut back in the Autumn, although a few, like chrysanthemums, prefer to remain standing, to act as winter mulch. Wait until a frost has caused the plants to dieback. You don’t want to encourage new growth that will be hit again. Start with plants that were diseased or had a pest problem and dispose of that debris, don’t compost it. Don’t prune woody plants, trees and shrubs until they are dormant. Leave some plants for the birds and wildlife.
Clearing up – Pull dead or declining annuals. Harvest everything above ground in the vegetable garden and under fruit trees. Clean up overgrown areas, to prevent animals and pests moving in and to make it easier in the spring. You know that out of control area behind the shed or where you piled some leaves last spring? We all have areas we mean to get to and Autumn is a great time. Left messy, you’ll not just invite animals, you’ll invite weedy trees and shrubs. Don’t forget your tools and containers. Empty, clean, and bring in containers. Clean and store stakes, cages and garden ornaments. They’ll last longer if you don’t leave them exposed for the winter. Clean and sharpen tools, before storage.
Plant – Yes, there’s still planting to do. Get flowering bulbs, garlic and rhubarb in the ground, before it freezes. If your plants are still looking good, pot some up to bring indoors, including herbs..
Protect – Shield plants animals that might eat them. Use tree guards for trees bothered by deer and rabbits.
Prep for Spring – Weed and then Prepare your planting beds now, with compost and manure, for planting in early spring. The freezing and thawing will work it into the soil for you. Start a compost pile. Mulch your leaves for fertilizer. A layer of mulch in the Autumn will suppress weed seed germination in the spring, while it’s protecting your plants.