Fall Cleanup Deserves Your Attention


There’s still time to focus on a few fall cleanup chores that should always be done before cold weather arrives. The first rule applies every time you work in the garden, especially if you work in someone else’s garden or on different JCMG projects.

1. Fall Cleanup: Take Care of Garden Tools. It’s more important than ever to keep your garden tools clean because it’s possible for plants to swap diseases and parasites if your tools aren’t cleaned after each use. This is especially true if you work in multiple gardens. Wipe tools clean of any sap, soil or dirt. If you’ve used a tool on a diseased plant, be sure to soak it in a 10 percent bleach solution and rinse well with clear water. Allow the tool to dry thoroughly before storing it away to avoid rust. I also recommend wiping tools down with an oily cloth. This is a good time to replace worn out or damaged tools.

2. Dig Up Non-Hardy Bulbs. Get down and dirty. Non-hardy bulbs like dahlias, gladiola and cannas need to be dug and stored for the winter. Some plants grow well outdoors in the summer, but just can’t take the winter cold. Storing these bulbs will save money in the spring. Check out this handy resource on the right for frost dates.

3. Store Garden Hoses. Drain your garden hoses and bring them inside when you are done. Water can lead to cracking that may burst hoses when in use. Be sure to check your outside faucet. You may have an internal shutoff valve inside the house. That valve allows the water to drain properly. If you don’t have a freeze-proof outdoor faucet you will want to cover the faucet with an insulated slip-on cover. Exterior pipes should be wrapped with insulated tubing. This project will help protect indoor pipes from freezing and bursting. 

4. Protect Your Roses. This is an easy fall chore that’s worth the time to protect your plants. A seasoned Master Gardener tells me deadheading blooms is fine but trimming roses should wait until late winter or early spring, about the time new growth begins. This time could vary as early as January or as late as May, depending on the zone where you live. It is important to cover roses with dry leaves or mulch. Before you cover your roses, clean up any diseased leaf debris. If you use rose cones make certain they’re vented as critters may seek shelter in them.

5. Mark Plant Locations. Fall is also a good time to mark the location of new and existing perennials, bulbs or seeds that you might forget about next spring. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (unless you want it to be). A permanent marker and a paint stir stick will do. Top the marker with a clear coat of gloss spray enamel.

Finally, another experienced Master Gardener recommends: leave the leaves. They are home to incubating insects. Let the soil rest. Also resist the urge to turn the soil. This will protect the earth from winter winds and moisture.

P.S. Fall is often a good time to find discounts on plants that are past their peak as most retailers offer steep discounts when the perennials go out of bloom.