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Fall Gardening Week 4: Wrapping Up the Season

As I explained earlier this month, on Thursdays in September I'm bringing you tips and advice for . . . 


And here we are . . . the last day in September (already) . . . the end of the month, and the end of my fall gardening series. I planned to finish things off today by sharing a few Fall Gardening To-Do Lists from well-known gardening gurus. Y'know . . . taking a peek at what the "pros" do. And then I got to looking at them. And I was like . . . NEWP! Because who needs THAT kind of pressure. (Seriously. These well-known gardening gurus? They either don't sleep, never go inside, or - more likely - have gardening staff on hand to help them.) (Just sayin.)

Not to be deterred, I decided to stick with my plan - sharing a Fall Gardening To-Do List - but to . . . Keep It Real. So today you get to see the fall garden chore checklist of a real-life, admittedly lazy (yet-committed!), one-woman-band (with a trusty sidekick) kind of gardener.

(Yeah. It's my list.) 

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And there you have it: my garden plans for the coming weeks.

I recommend starting with the lowest-hanging fruit. My strategy for any to-do list is to dig in with the quickest, easiest tasks first . . . to rack up some early success and establish inertia. I look for the one-stop stuff like . . . scheduling the sprinkler shut-down. (One phone call! DONE.) Finalizing the snow plow contract. (Sign and mail!  DONE.) Bird seed. (Send Tom out to stock up for the winter! DONE.)


Then, I move on to the fun stuff. For me, this means decorating with mums and pumpkins, and switching out my front porch containers with some hardy annuals. This does entail a little planning and a stop (or two) at my favorite local nursery. I also think it's fun to decide which plants I want to try to bring inside for the winter. (I don't have much success here, but it's fun to go through the process - and give it whirl.)


Which leaves me with the chores that feel more like . . . actual chores. As in . . . they take some time and need to be done with a bit more care. Cleaning, oiling, and storing my garden tools for the season, for example. Or gathering and packing up my "garden tchotchkes" for the season. Emptying, cleaning out, and storing my garden pots and containers. Those chores.


Definitely not my favorite things on the list, for sure. They aren't horrible, by any means. But if you leave them until too late in the season, you risk having to do them in the cold or the rain (or snow), and that's no fun. Besides, winter weather is hard on pots and tchotchkes. If you want things to last from season to season, it's best to get them stowed away in your chosen storage area for the season. (And by all means get those hoses unhooked before it freezes.)

Another job on my list that's not much fun and never finished (ever) . . . is weeding. I continue to weed until I can't weed anymore -- because I know that every weed I pull in the fall is a weed that won't seed in the spring. So it's worth doing. And doing. And doing. And doing. (I often give myself a goal of 15-30 minutes of weeding every day. Every little bit helps.)


And then . . . let's talk about bulbs for a second, shall we? I really hate planting bulbs in the fall. (It's my least favorite chore on the list.) (I'd even rather weed every day.) I don't know why, but I just get ZERO joy from planting fall bulbs. BUT . . . I get ALL THE JOY from seeing their blooms in my garden, come spring. So I usually bite the bullet and throw a few more in the ground each fall. This year, it'll be more allium and a refresh on tulips. (I'm officially giving up on crocus. I love them. But every year - just as they're beginning to bloom - critters dig them up and eat them -- and have the gall to leave the uneaten parts right there in the garden so I can see what's been going on). 

So . . . if you haven't gotten your bulbs in the ground yet, you've still got time! It might be too late to order what you want from an online outlet, but my local nursery was well-stocked with a good selection of bulbs when I visited yesterday. So go for it if you want some joy in your garden next spring.


And one last chore that is important, but so easy to just skip, is taking stock of the garden-year-just-ended. It's not hard, and it doesn't take long. Just snap a few pictures. Walk around and jot down notes. What did you like? What was an absolute disaster? Where are the dead zones? What ideas do you have for next year? In a few months - say . . . in February - you can get these notes out and start dreaming and scheming. You'll have a much better sense of what you want to tackle first in your garden come spring if you have some notes to remind you about what you were thinking in the fall. (If any of you are interested in more information about how I take notes for my garden, let me know. If enough of you are interested, I'll put together a blog post.)

And there you have it! A real-life, fall garden chore checklist . . . from a lazy gardener you know well.
What do you think? Did I forget anything?


Additional Information and Resources:

Looking for information on how to clean and store your garden tools for the season? This link from Gardening Know How includes bare-bones information for getting your tools ready for winter. (I like this article because it's not so detailed that you throw up your hands in frustration and annoyance.) (Trust me, some of them are ridiculously complex when it comes to cleaning tools.)

Wondering just how to clean up your pots and containers before storing them for the season? Here's another link from Gardening Know How to give you the scoop. (I skip the bleach part altogether, just so you know).

Thinking about planting some bulbs this fall? Here are some shopping-for-bulb tips from Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden. And here is a slideshow featuring her "favorite, reliable bulbs." (She doesn't plant crocus anymore either, by the way.)

About those weeds . . . Are you interested in identifying the weeds in your garden? Here's a weed-identification guide from Margaret Roach, and here's a great tool - Is This Plant A Weed? - from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.


Past Gardening in the Fall posts:

Week One: Less is More (fall clean up information)

Week Two: Now is the Time (fall planting and transplanting information)

Week Three: Bring 'em Inside (bringing your outdoor plants indoors for the winter)



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One nice thing about being in NJ for a couple of weeks is that I've had time to do some garden tasks that I haven't done in quite a while, and that includes weeding and cleaning and putting away pots. I've pretty much given up on bulbs because the deer, squirrels , rabbits, and chipmunks always win. Thanks for your fall gardening series!


My back garden is out of control and I don't know where to begin! I had arranged for some major landscaping work to be done after having some dead ash trees removed last fall. The work was never done because the company couldn't keep help. The owner is barely keeping up with his mowing jobs. Other companies are having the same problem and I have work that needs to be done that is beyond my ability. I'm on the "maybe next year" list with two companies, it all depends on if they can hire and keep help. I think I just need to focus on my weedy little flower bed and turn a blind eye to the areas that I can't take care of. Thanks for sharing all your tips!


You've covered all the things and this is a great reminder to make my own list. I swapped out the window boxes last Sunday and I've identified the plants I want to try and winter over . . . again. Last night I actually started bringing some into the mudroom but I'll put them outside again during the day. I'm with you on planting bulbs but I do want to get some allium so thanks for the reminder on that, too. And weeding. Ugh. I need to text my lawn guy and make sure I'm on the list for a fall clean up, too.


I guess I'm lucky that I didn't have much of a garden this year -- it means very little to clean up! I do need to do a general tidy and a lot of weeding, though, so all this is a good reminder. And my brother loves those globe Allium flowers, which I didn't realize come from bulbs, so I'm going to pass along that bit of information to him.


I started my clean up today.

Pulled out those shrubs that had some kind of egg sacks all over them. They were invasive (sticky tendrils) to the stone of the house. So they had to go. Put the astilbe in that spot so that they can be better seen next spring. They were hidden by the azalea and sweet viburnum that have gotten large over the years since the previous folks had the garden set out. Cut back a portion of the Lily of the Valley and peonies. More to be done, but my time was up.

See, Kym, I'm WORKIN'! Next year things won't look so crowded together.

(I'm sure the garden was beautiful when the landscapers put it in, but everything has grown.)


By the time fall rolls around I am officially done with gardening, much to my springtime disappointment. Throwing in a few bulbs -- how much time can that take? So why do I not do it? Duh.


This series has been inspiring for me. I usually dump the pots and then scrub them out on a warm spring day but maybe a good scrub in the fall would eliminate any insect eggs. I had gardening plans for this week but got hit an unexpected death in our family so sort of lost track of much else. I don't really get much kick out of planting bulbs in the fall either. I have a friend who loves it. Why is this? I do need to do more than a little weeding. I started a garden journal early in the summer, just jotting down thoughts, ideas, dates when things bloomed etc. Getting it out in February will be fun.


A wonderful post. So much to do. I love your thoughts. Too many critters eat bulbs. I don't dare here. I need to see if I can over winter my roses in the shed

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