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Fall Garden Maintenance

Don't be keen to clean


Most gardeners face fall garden cleanup and maintenance with some reluctance. However to the delight of many, some fall cleanup isn't entirely necessary.

As the days get shorter and the air develops a chillier nip, why do all the work yourself? Let Mother Nature help you take care of your garden.

Most gardeners face the task of fall cleanup with some reluctance. I’m sure some gardeners truly enjoy spending hours pruning and raking, all in the grey drizzle of November, but I am not one of them. You can imagine my elation when I discovered that some fall cleanup isn’t entirely necessary, and that my spring garden may be even healthier if I do a little less work now.

Leave the Leaves

As the leaves begin to fall, mulching them with a mower will make their nutrients available to the soil of your lawn and garden. When the rain becomes heavy or snow threatens, remove excess organic matter to allow for good air and water circulation through the winter. Add leaf mulch to your garden beds to regulate the temperature around shrubs and perennials, keeping them warm throughout the winter. Whole or mulched leaves protect roots that may be exposed by soil heave following repeated freezing and thawing, and they will keep plants cool and dormant through the first fleeting warm spells of spring.

Cut Back on Cutting Back

Encourage snow to collect around dormant perennials by leaving stems standing, rather than cutting them back at the end of the season. Although chilly to the touch, snow is an excellent natural insulator, swaddling your perennials like a cozy winter blanket. Last year’s plants also provide needed habitat for garden helpers such as ladybugs and spiders.

Leave large seed heads intact on plants such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, as they are an important food source for birds through the colder months and will encourage these insect-control experts to return every spring. Intact seed heads will give next year’s flowers more opportunity to self-seed, and you’ll add some interesting texture to your winter landscape. Tall ornamental grasses are always eye-catching against the white backdrop of snowfall, and they should also be left to sway and rustle delicately in winter breezes.

While some annual chores will always be necessary, taking a relaxed approach to this year’s fall cleanup will help your garden help itself.


  • Remove any diseased plants and dispose of them. Leaving them in the garden or composting them will ensure recurrence the following year.
  • Keep on weeding–don’t let unwanted plantsrun wild and take hold at the end of thegardening season.
  • Remove large leaves from plants such as hostas, as they could prevent air and water circulation and create a slug chalet for the winter.


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