Fall To Do List

Want to know a gardening secret about the yards and gardens that really shine throughout the year? Those gardeners don’t stop gardening in the fall. A little extra work and some careful planning this fall can make a world of difference between a good garden and a great one all year long. Use this fall checklist to take your yard to the next level:

Plant Fall Annuals

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you have to settle for a drab colorless garden. There are many cool-season annual varieties you can plant to provide your garden with a brilliant color palette throughout autumn. Fall annuals look great in garden beds and patio pots and many are hardy enough to survive temperatures of 25 degrees or lower.

Plant Trees & Shrubs

Cooler outdoor temperatures and lingering soil warmth make fall an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. Fall planting gives plants time to overcome transplant shock without the added demands of producing leaves and flowers, giving them a jump start over anything planted next spring.

Plant Fall Bulbs

Bulbs planted in fall lie dormant through the winter months before producing those delicate pretty flowers that push through the melting snow and usher in spring. It’s best to plant bulbs in early fall so the bulb root has time to get established, prior to the ground freezing. Wait until daytime temperatures are holding steadily at or below the mid-60s to prevent them from sprouting prematurely in the fall.

Autumn Clean-up

This is the time of year to clean the garden in anticipation of winter and a carefree spring. Save fallen leaves to use as mulch or add to the compost pile. Trim ornamental grasses to a height of 4 inches, or leave until early spring to provide interest throughout the winter months. 

Mulch Beds/ Add Compost

Protect garden beds from the harsh winter sun and winds by covering them with a layer of mulch. This helps the soil retain moisture and protect the micro-organisms living in the soil. You can also add a compost dressing to garden beds, preparing the soil for the spring season. 

Winterize Lawn

Fall fertilization, or  (aka winterization), can help your lawn develop a healthier root system, which means a dense, green lawn in the spring. In Northern Colorado, lawns can be fertilized right up to Thanksgiving using a fertilizer specially formulated for winterization.

Use Rose Collars

Rose collars help protect grafts on grafted roses (hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, and many other specialty varieties) from freezing. Place the rose collar around the base of the rose plant and fill with clean leaf debris, mulch, or compost. 

Wrap Trees

Extreme, fluctuating temperatures can cause sunscald on the trunks of young, high-risk deciduous trees like honey locusts, fruit trees, ashes, oaks, maples, lindens and willows. Commercial tree wraps made of crepe paper insulate bark and are an effective way to prevent sunscald. Wrap trunks in late October or early November and remove tree wrap and tape the following April to avoid girdling and possible insect damage. 

Originally published on September 25th, 2023. Updated on October 2nd, 2023.