Winterizing Your Garden

With autumn upon us, it’s that time of year to start preparing your vegetable garden, flower beds and the landscaping around your home for the colder-weather months ahead. We know it can be an arduous task, considering the harvesting, cleaning and raking that needs to be done. But fall is also an excellent time to keep that gardening spirit going a bit longer and plant something new.

We’ve asked the folks at Lehigh Valley Home and Garden in Allentown, Pa., to give us their expert advice on what’s top priority to tackle this season. Here are their tips on what to pick, prune—and plant—as you begin putting your garden to bed for winter.

What to Pick Before the Frost

For many regions, and especially in the Northeastern United States, it’s time to harvest an array of fruits and vegetables, including cabbage, celery, corn, eggplant, garlic, leeks, melons, onions, peppers, potatoes, shallots and squash. You’ll want to pick tomatoes as well, especially if the weather has generally been very dry with sporadic heavy rains. This will cause tomatoes to crack if they’re not harvested in time.

What to Prune and When

Many people wonder, Is it OK to prune in fall? While the general rule is no, there are exceptions. According to Lehigh Valley Home and Garden, while spring is typically the best time of year to prune your trees, shrubs and plants (either before or after they flower depending on the type), many of them can handle a little trim during autumn as well. You’ll want to pay particular attention to removing any dying limbs and diseased branches before they infect and destroy the rest of the plant.

Once your annuals start shriveling and fading, it’s time for them to be removed as well. After the first frost, any remaining annuals should also be removed. Dying and rotting annuals are an eyesore and an invitation for pests, foul odors and disease. The same holds true for weeds. They should be dug up from the roots or they may very well return with a vengeance. 

What to Plant in a Fall Garden

There are a variety of things you can plant this time of year. In the Northeast, it’s a wonderful time to get shrubs and trees in the ground. Planting them in the fall, when the weather is cooler and their leaves are dropping, allows them to focus all of their energy on developing a robust root system before they need to start putting out new leaves in the spring.

There’s also still time to plant vegetables with a short maturity time. Cool weather crops include root vegetables such as beets, carrots and garlic; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale; lettuces and spinach.

Many perennials also benefit from being planted in the fall. These include coreopsis, dianthus, hardy chrysanthemums, ornamental grasses, peonies, phlox and sedum. For additional pops of color around your home, pansies and violas can handle the cooler weather, as can ornamental cabbage, kale and peppers, red grasses and millet.

You can also plan ahead for spring by planting bulbs now for those lovely harbingers of the season such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.

Fall Garden Prep for Spring Planting

Most people prepare their soil for planting in the spring, but you can amend it now with compost or manures, says Lehigh Valley Home and Garden. At the very least, you should top up to bring your soil to the desired level.

For those, especially in the Northeast, September is a good time to apply weed killer to your lawn, followed by lime in November. Adding lime will help increase the soil pH level to make more available the nutrients needed for proper growth. 

Mulch should also be added around the base of any perennials that will be left outside to withstand the winter.

So spend some time this season ticking off this fall-chore checklist before temperatures tumble. Everything you do now to properly winterize your vegetable garden, flower beds and the landscaping around your home helps smooth the way for a healthy, beautiful growing season next year.

For more information on garden protection, read the following articles:

Guide to Gardening During a Texas Winter

How to Protect Your Garden Beds

Top Tips to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

How to Keep Outdoor Plants Alive in Winter


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