20 Fall Landscape Ideas and Tips to Prep for the Following Spring

20 Fall Landscape Ideas and Tips to Prep for the Following Spring

For many gardeners, fall is a favorite time of the year. The temperatures start to drop which makes completing chores much more comfortable. The vegetable garden is almost finished providing fresh vegetables for northern gardeners while southern gardeners are starting to harvest from their fall gardens. The leaves are changing color and the air is fresh with a crisp breeze. This is the time to enjoy your garden and landscape before winter arrives. It is also the time for preparing your plants for the dormant season.

Spend a little time evaluating your garden. What was successful and what wasn’t? Do you have perennial plants that need dividing this fall? Do you want to move a plant to a different location in the flower bed? Maybe you would like to have a tree in a certain part of your yard or a privacy screen of flowering shrubs. Start a garden journal, if you haven’t already, and jot down your observations for future reference.

There are a lot of tasks to complete before winter, but don’t forget to spend time outdoors just enjoying your yard. Here are some suggestions for both.

1. Decorate for fall 

Sometimes, we tend to focus on the tasks and forget to enjoy each season. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the fall season. Replace some of your tired annuals with some fall chrysanthemums and asters. Mix in some pumpkins and gourds also. Don’t forget the ornamental cabbages, too. 

2. Clean up the vegetable garden 

This should be an ongoing task, but sometimes it can get away from us. Remove any plant material that is not producing or edible. Add it to the compost pile unless it shows signs of disease. This plant debris should be removed and disposed of. Adding it to your compost could result in spreading the disease.

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3. Rake your lawn 

You can help your lawn by keeping it free of leaves. Add the leaves to the compost after shredding them with the mower. The shredding will help the material to break down faster.

4. Make a Fire pit. 

Add a fire pit and enjoy time with family and friends making toasted marshmallows and s’mores. Top it off with some warm apple cider or caramel apples. There are also heat lamps, like many restaurants have for outdoor dining, available for home use. If you enjoy dining outdoors, these heaters can significantly extend your season both in spring and fall.

5. Bargain plants

What gardener doesn’t like to shop for bargains? In the fall, many nurseries will have their remaining live plants on sale so they don’t have to keep them over winter. This includes trees, flowering shrubs and perennials. Refer to your garden journal for your wish list.

Bargain plants

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6. Plant Spring bulbs 

This is the time that you need to plant your spring blooming bulbs. It sometimes seems like there is too much to do in the fall, and it is easy to skip this. Remember that in spring you will see tulips and daffodils blooming in your neighbors’ yards and regret not taking the time in fall to plant some bulbs. Even one or two groupings is worth the effort. Don’t forget this is also the time to plant garlic for next year’s crop.

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7. Divide Perennials 

Some perennial plants can be divided in the fall. This includes hostas and daylilies. Replant the sections in the same spot or add some to other areas of your garden. If you have extras, share them with gardening friends.

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8. Watering Schedule 

Continue to water your plants, especially any newly planted trees or flowering shrubs including roses. This will help your plants survive the coming winter successfully.

Plant in garden covered with blanket

9. Cover Your Crops

If your garden is winding down for the season, consider planting a cover crop in the vegetable garden. This serves a couple of important functions. Uncovered soil is very likely to suffer erosion of soil from the strong winter wind. You worked hard to make your soil as healthy as possible. Don’t let it be blown away. Another benefit is that in the spring this plant material can be cut and then tilled into the soil, adding plant material and its nutrients into the soil. Your cover crop can also minimize the growth of weeds during the winter months.

10. Collect Plant Materials 

Fall is the time to collect seeds for planting next year. If you have a plant that you particularly like, take cuttings now and grow them indoors this winter. These can be from annuals or perennial plants. Gather any remaining herbs to dry for winter use. Don’t forget flowers that will do well in dried flower arrangements, like hydrangeas and grasses. Branches trimmed from trimmed trees can be used in decorative displays in your outdoor containers in the winter. Consider spray painting them white or silver. Red or yellow dogwood branches give a great vertical interest as well as their natural color in your winter displays.

11. Edge Garden Beds

A final edging of the garden beds will help make your landscape neat and tidy all winter and give you a head start when the grass starts to grow in the spring. As fall continues to progress, there are some final chores that need to be completed before your garden is closed down for the winter.

12. Cut back perennials

Cut back your perennials but leave a few until spring. Leave flowers like cone flowers in the garden. The seeds of the coneflower are good food for the birds that winter over in your yard. Another plant to consider leaving until spring are plants like grasses or varieties of sedum like Autumn Joy. The grasses will give interest in the winter and gently wave in the winter wind. Autumn Joy sedum is a good size plant that holds its large flowerheads above the succulent foliage well into winter and looks good even when dusted with the first snows of the winter.

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13. Trim and protect trees and bushes 

Once the leaves drop from your shrubs and trees, you will be able to see any damaged branches or even some that you feel need trimming. Damage can be removed anytime, but it can encourage the plant to produce new growth which will be too tender to survive the winter. Trimming flowering shrubs should only be done in fall or winter if your shrub blooms on new wood. Flowering shrubs like lilacs set their flower buds for the following year in the summer so trimming them will remove all the spring flowers for next year. Protect your trees and shrubs from hungry animal damage by using physical barriers. Protect any young tree trunks by covering with tree tape or surrounding the trunk and lower branches with a fine mesh wire cage. The wire mesh barrier will also help keep the rabbits from eating the lower branches of your flowering shrubs. Don’t underestimate the depth of the snow. Some creatures will burrow under the snow to get to the plants, but others, like rabbits, will travel on top of the snow. You may have protected the lower branches only to have the critters munch on the middle or top of your new shrubs.

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14. Drain Your Hoses 

Drain and store all hoses if your winter temperatures drop below freezing. Any water left in the hose will expand when freezing and rupture the hose. Turn off the water to outdoor spigots even if your outdoor water spigot is the type that won’t freeze. Accidents can happen and it is not worth the risk of your outdoor pipes freezing.

15. Remove Containers 

Some containers are strong enough to withstand the freezing temperatures of winter, but many are not. Put pots and containers in the garden shed or garage. The same precaution is necessary for all bird baths or fountains. Winterize all water features appropriately. Many gardeners have added rain barrels to their homes to conserve water. These too must be disconnected before winter and freezing temperatures.

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16. Clean and Store Outdoor Furniture 

 When you are on the brink of winter and won’t be enjoying sitting outdoors again until spring, it is time to give your furniture a good cleaning and store it until then. You may not have storage room for all of your outdoor furniture — in which case, remove and store the cushions for the winter. Usually, a cleaning with soapy water and a good brush will do the trick. Also, make sure your upholstered pieces are thoroughly dry before you store them.

17. Clean and Store Garden Tools 

Assess all your garden tools. Clean thoroughly and sharpen any that need it. Include shovel and hoe blades when sharpening, as well as clippers and lawn mower blades. Finish each blade with a light coat of oil to prevent rust and then store for the winter. 

Sharpen Garden Tools

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18. Protect Tender Plants

If you have some perennial plants that are marginally in your grow zone, they will benefit from some additional protection to help them survive the winter. Wait until there have been several freezing days so the ground has frozen and problem animals can’t burrow into your material. By waiting, you have hopefully given any rabbit or other small animals time to establish their winter shelter somewhere other than in your garden. You can cover your plants with extra mulch, or some gardeners like to surround the plant with chicken wire fencing and then fill with dried leaves.

19. Rose Care for Fall 

Some roses are very hardy and don’t need any extra protection in the winter. The biggest factor is the growing zone you are in and what type of roses you are growing. If you live in the north, zone six or lower, you will need to protect your roses. Encourage your roses to go dormant by not cutting off the dead blooms after Labor Day and allowing the rose to produce rose hips. This tells the rose that it has achieved its objective of reproducing and it can go dormant. As with perennials, you want to wait until there have been several days of below freezing temperatures. Then, add up to 12 inches of loose soil over the crown of the rose. 

Rose Care for Fall

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The lower your grow zone, the more coverage you need. You can surround the rose with either chicken wire or use a tomato cage from the vegetable garden that has been wrapped in burlap. Fill the space with dry leaves or evergreen branches. They will give added protection to the canes. Pull the burlap closed over the top. This helps to keep the leaves dry and also protects the canes from the wind and sun. The idea is to prevent the rose from the sub-zero temperatures but also to prevent temperature fluctuations. In the north, the temperatures can drop to sub-zero and then there can be the January thaw when suddenly the temperature reaches above freezing for a week or two. Without protection, the soil could start to thaw and the rose will heave out of the ground. By insulating the plant, it will be protected from the severe cold but also the intermittent warm weather. Gradually start to remove protection in the spring based on your last frost date for your zone.

20. Prepare Your Christmas Decorations 

Lastly, get ready for the holiday season by adding any lights and other decorations before it gets too cold. If you live in the north, you know there can be below freezing temperatures and there can be snowstorms by November. That is not when you want to be stringing lights on the front of your house. 

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