Fall Garden Chores

inspect garden pots and put away for spring

The urge to get out the blankets, make hot chocolate & settle by the fireplace is coming on strong, however, there is still a lot to do outside to take care of your landscape. What you do now can make next year’s bounty all the better. Linn County Master Gardener Jackie Hadenfeldt MacLaren outlines seven tasks you should add to your to-do list.

What can I do now to get ready for next spring?
As the growing season draws to a close, consider these fall gardening activities to give you a jump start on Spring gardening.

1. Make a final application of lawn fertilizer. An application of fertilizer after the turf grass foliage has stopped growing promotes root growth and early green-up next spring. Read and follow label directions.


2. After the first frost, do one final mowing. Then run the mower until the gas tank is empty to store it for winter. Sharpen or replace the mower blade so you’re ready to roll come spring.


3. Clean and examine all pots, birdbaths and outdoor statuary as you prepare it for winter. In Iowa's harsh winters, even plastic containers will crack and clay pots will definitely shatter so protected indoor storage is your best bet. If you have a rain barrel, empty and store upside down or in a protected place.


4. Protect newly planted trees, especially fruit trees from winter damage my rabbits and rodents. Over winter, rabbits often gnaw on the tender bark and will quickly work their way completely around a tree trunk. This “girdling” frequently results in the death of the tree. Small trees with smooth, thin bark are most vulnerable. I lost a really nice crabapple one year by leaving it exposed over winter.

Surround the tree trunk with hardware cloth standing away from the trunk about one to two inches. Make sure it extends several inches above the expected snow depth. Hardware cloth is welded wire with very small square openings that forms a physical barrier to keep rabbits out. It’s available at most farm and home improvement stores.

5. You can still plant spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and tulips up until the ground freezes so grab a few when you see them on sale. Plant at three times the bulb diameter and water well. You’ll have a pleasing display of color when the snow melts!


6. Keep watering newly planted trees up until the ground freezes, and then detach garden hoses from the faucet to prevent freezing and damaging pipes. Drain hoses and store on reels or coil and store on a flat surface to prevent kinking.


7. Inspect and repair garden tools and equipment as you prepare them for winter storage. Proper storage prolongs useful life and improves performance. Remove caked-on soil from digging tools with a wire brush, putty knife or steel wool.
Sharpen the blades of hoes, shovels, and spades. Wipe metal surfaces with an oily rag or spray with WD-40. Sand rough wooden handles and wipe with linseed oil to prevent cracking. Store in a dry place.

Congratulate yourself on a job well done and imagine how good it will feel when everything is lined up and ready to go next spring!

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