Fall Planting Preparation


The cooler days of fall are a welcome respite after the heat of summer. What you do in your garden now can set you up for a successful fall harvest and spring season. Give your garden a refresh with these simple tips so that you’re ready for fall planting.

Start Composting

If you haven’t already done so, fall is a great time to start composting. You’ll have an abundance of vegetable scraps and plant material from your garden (green materials) and autumn leaves (brown materials) to build a pile. One great tip is to run over the leaves with a lawnmower to shred them before layering them with plant materials in the garden. Composting is a great way to improve your garden’s soil by adding fertility and organic matter. It’s also great for the environment, helping you turn waste into a useful product instead of sending it to the landfill. You can find everything you need to know to start composting here.

Remove Old Annuals and Spent Vegetables

Even if you don’t compost, removing dead annuals and vegetables can make your garden look much neater and keep it healthy. Be careful to remove any diseased plant material and discard it to the trash — don’t compost it. Some diseases can overwinter and cause problems next year if you don’t remove affected material. Leave plants with lots of seedheads, such as sunflowers, for birds to eat. Don’t cut down perennials at this time, as they provide food and cover for butterflies, birds, and other insects.

Test the Soil and Make Adjustments as Needed

Soil health is key to a productive garden. This fall, get a soil test to make informed decisions about what your garden needs. You can purchase at-home soil test kits, and many extension agencies offer more comprehensive soil tests that make recommendations for your specific garden area. Once you know what your garden needs, you’ll be able to add amendments before planting your fall veggies and flowers.

Scout for Insects and Apply Preventative Treatments

There are a variety of insects that overwinter in the soil or in plant leaves and stems. Treating these problems now can make a huge difference in next year’s garden. For example, asparagus beetles will overwinter in dead asparagus stalks. If you had them this year, you should remove and discard or burn the asparagus stalks once they turn brown in the fall. Japanese beetle grubs overwinter in the soil, and you can safely kill them by treating your lawn and garden with milky spore (a fungus that the grubs ingest) or parasitic nematodes.

Treat Your Lawn for Winter Weeds

Broadleaf winter annual weeds, like deadnettle and henbit, germinate in late summer through early fall. You can apply a pre-emergent herbicide at this time to prevent a weed takeover. Continuing to mow even after the grass has stopped growing can also help kill winter annuals. Control perennial weeds like broadleaf plantain by applying a fall broadleaf herbicide according to package instructions.

Following these simple tips can help you maintain a beautiful and productive garden for fall planting and get a head start on next spring!