Looking for ways to improve your garden for next year? Here are 10 must-do fall garden chores that should be done before winter arrives to prepare for the next growing season.

Fall is a great time to get out in the garden, and wrap things up for the current season while looking ahead to the next year.

And with the end of the gardening season in sight, there are a few things to do before putting away the garden tools and hunkering down for winter.

While some fall garden tasks can be put off until spring. There are some that have to be done in autumn.

Here’s what you need to know.

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What Gardening Should Be Done in Fall?

Before we deep dive into what I’m doing things fall, here’s a quick list of must-do fall garden chores before the ground freezes.

Sunset in the front porch cottage garden in fall with rudbeckia, sedum autumn joy and snapdragons overlooking the valley

When Should I Start My Fall Garden Clean-Up?

It’s a good idea to wait to begin fall garden clean-up until after a few good frosts when annuals are completely done.

While it’s a good idea to remove leaves and debris from the beds, I prefer to leave perennial seed heads up during the winter from plants like Joe Pye, Sedum Autumn Joy, etc. to provide ongoing winter interest as well as feed the birds.

What Should I Do at the End of My Garden Season?

At the end of the garden season, it’s a good idea to harvest any vegetables that are left. You can cut back perennials or leave them until spring.

I remove annuals with the exception of pansies because they overwinter and will bounce back in spring.

And it’s also a great time to add compost to the beds.

Wearing long sleeves, jeans, boots and gloves while working in the garden doing Fall Garden Clean-Up

Is Fall Clean-Up Necessary?

The short answer is yes.

Because removal of debris in both your lawn and garden will improve the health of both as well as prevent pest and disease problems.

Not to mention, leaving leaves on the lawn will smother the grass and looks unsightly. So the short of it is, remove leaves and debris from your lawn and garden in the fall.

But make sure you save those leaves to make leaf mold.

purple fall garden mums with autumn foliage

Why You Should Leave Your Garden Messy in the Fall

That said, it’s a good idea to leave your perennials and annuals until the following spring.

Leaving your garden a bit messy in the fall might seem counterintuitive, especially when you’ve spent all year tending to its beauty and order.

However, there are several compelling reasons to embrace a more relaxed approach to tidiness as the autumn season arrives.

Here’s why you might consider leaving your garden a little messy in the fall:

  • Wildlife Habitat: Allowing some plants to remain standing and leaving leaf litter can provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Many insects and small animals, including beneficial pollinators and birds, rely on these materials for shelter and as overwintering sites.
  • Natural Mulch: Fallen leaves, spent flower heads, and plant debris create a natural mulch that can protect your garden’s soil from erosion and temperature extremes. As these materials break down over time, they enrich the soil with organic matter, benefiting your plants in the long run.
  • Seeds for Wildlife: Some plants produce seeds in the fall that are essential food sources for birds and other creatures during the colder months.
  • Natural Gardening Philosophy: Embracing a more natural gardening approach aligns with the principles of permaculture and ecosystem gardening. Allowing nature to take its course fosters a self-sustaining environment that requires less intervention over time.
  • Winter Interest: Dried seed heads, ornamental grasses, and certain plants can add unique texture and visual interest to your garden during the winter months. These elements create a winter landscape that is both captivating and ethereal.
  • Less Disruption: Cleaning up your garden too thoroughly in the fall can disturb beneficial insects, disrupt soil structure, and interfere with the natural cycle of the ecosystem. A bit of messiness allows these processes to continue undisturbed.
  • Reduced Stress: Allowing yourself to leave the garden a bit untidy can reduce the stress of maintaining a perfectly manicured space year-round. Fall is a time to relax and enjoy the changing seasons, and a slightly messy garden can reflect that sense of ease.
  • Time and Resource Savings: Not meticulously cleaning up every fallen leaf or cutting down every dead stem can save you time and energy. It’s a more low-maintenance approach that still promotes a healthy garden environment.
  • Learning Experience: Observing how your garden changes and adapts throughout the fall and into winter can provide valuable insights into the natural processes at work in your outdoor space.
  • Resilient Garden: Allowing certain plants to remain standing through the winter can enhance the garden’s resilience. These plants have evolved to withstand cold weather, and their presence can contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem.

While it’s important to strike a balance between tidiness and the benefits of a slightly messy garden, embracing a more relaxed approach in the fall can foster a deeper connection with nature, promote ecological health, and provide a unique kind of beauty that is often overlooked in our quest for perfection.

So, consider leaving a portion of your garden untamed as autumn approaches, and enjoy the myriad benefits it can bring.

flea market finds potted up with heucheras on the front porch with porch swing, fall pillows and cozy blanket in autumn

What to Do with Outdoor Plants in Fall?

As the days grow shorter and temperatures start to drop, it’s time to start thinking about how to care for your outdoor plants during the fall season.

Properly preparing your plants for the colder months will help them survive winter and come back strong in the spring. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what to do with outdoor plants in the fall:

  • Clean Up: Begin by tidying up your garden beds. Remove any dead or diseased plant material, fallen leaves, and spent annuals. Cleaning up your garden now will help prevent pests and diseases from overwintering.
  • Prune and Trim: Trim back any dead or overgrown branches from trees, shrubs, and perennials. This encourages healthy growth and prevents breakage from heavy snow and ice.
  • Divide Perennials: If your perennials have become overcrowded, fall is a great time to divide them. Dig up the clumps, separate them into smaller sections, and replant them with fresh soil.
  • Mulch: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of trees, shrubs, and perennials. Mulch helps to insulate the soil, retain moisture, and protect plant roots from freezing temperatures.
  • Plant Bulbs: Fall is the season for planting spring-blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and crocuses. Dig holes at the recommended depth and spacing, place the bulbs, and cover them with soil.
  • Watering: As the weather cools down, you’ll likely need to water your plants less frequently. However, it’s important to keep an eye on moisture levels and provide supplemental water if the weather remains dry.
  • Protect Vulnerable Plants: If you have plants that are borderline hardy for your zone, consider providing extra protection. You can wrap them in burlap or use specialized plant covers to shield them from harsh winds and cold temperatures.
  • Winterize Containers: If you have potted plants, move them to a sheltered area or closer to your home’s foundation to provide some insulation. You can also wrap the pots in bubble wrap or burlap to help protect the roots from freezing.
  • Lawn Care: Fall is an excellent time to care for your lawn. Aerate, overseed, and apply a fall-specific fertilizer to promote healthy grass growth. If Japanese beetles and grubs were a problem this year, apply milky spore to help with grub control.
  • Check for Pests: Before winter arrives, inspect your plants for any signs of pests or diseases.
  • Gather Seeds: If you have plants that produce seeds you’d like to save, now is the time to collect and store them for next year’s planting.
  • Plan for Next Year: Use the fall season to plan and dream about changes you want to make in your garden next year. Research new plants, design ideas, and landscaping projects.

Taking these steps to care for your outdoor plants in the fall will not only help them survive the winter but also set the stage for a vibrant and healthy garden when spring arrives.

Remember to tailor your approach based on your specific plant types, local climate, and growing conditions.

fall garden ideas with sedum autumn joy, sugar pumpkins and rudbeckia, possibly goldsturm

My Fall Best Garden Tip That Will Save You Money

With the end of the garden season in sight, I want to start tweaking some of the gardens so they are ready for next year.

Fall Gardening Tip: I’ve mentioned it before and will say it again: mid-late October is the best time to find deals on plants and flowers. Nurseries mark down their stock by 40% and sometimes 50% to move it before winter.

So while you are fall gardening this year and planning any kind of a garden run, don’t walk, to get to the nurseries now before their stock is completely gone.

close up of copper tub found thrifting with fall garden plants -How to Plant a Fall Garden in a Flea Market Find

But My Favorite Fall Garden Chore?

My favorite fall garden task is to shop for plants!

As I just mentioned, you can purchase plants for a song and fall is the best time to plant anyway.


Because plant roots establish easier from fall through winter to spring, than they do from spring through summer to fall.

So if buying plants on the cheap isn’t enticing enough, planting in fall will make your gardening life that much easier getting those plants to establish.

Fall Garden Clean-Up with the Ryobi Leaf Vac

More About Fall Garden Chores

Have you gotten started on your fall garden chores? Is there anything else you’d add to the list? I would love to know more in the comments below.

front pond in flal with bridge on park like property in zone 6a new jersey the garden state
must-do fall garden chores graphic with fall garden in bloom background

Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

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Shopping in Fall for Garden Plants

In last week’s garden tour blog, I said that I wanted to plant a Limelight Hydrangea and possibly Sky Pencil Juniper Sky Pencil.

While visiting my favorite nursery, I grabbed the last Limelight Hydrangea.

I did not see any Sky Pencil Junipers, but found Green Columnar Juniper instead. It’s a little larger than Sky Pencil but will fill the space better.

And, would you believe I got these at about 50% off?

It was such a great deal!

Shopping at the garden nursery in fall to Plant Next Year's Garden in Fall

When I arrived home from the nursery with my new plant babies, I immediately placed them in the well garden to see how they’d look.


The garden looks so much better. Since I got such a good deal, I decided to go back the next day to buy more Junipers and smaller shrubs for the backyard border.

Limelight hydrangea in fall with flowers Shrub Garden Ideas
I love how Limelight Hydrangea and Green Columnar Juniper look in this garden!

If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you’ve heard me talk about the hole in the backyard border.

Something was once there but died a few years ago and I haven’t done much to fix it.

That hole really bothered me for too long.

So this year, so I am addressing it because these deals are too good to pass up!

And the Green Columnar Juniper is perfect for this spot because it grows about 5×15′, will add year-round interest, and is a much-needed focal point in the border.

Green Columnar Juniper
The Juniper is small now but it will start to fill in over the next few years.

Looking at this border, I want to grab two more Junipers.

One for that hole and another for the end section of the border that I have not planted yet.

While there were a few Green Columnar Junipers left, only one looked really healthy, so I grabbed a different variety of Juniper instead that has a similar growing habit.

Fall gardening tip: When you are purchasing plants in the fall, check them for signs of pests and disease. We don’t want to bring any problems home to spread an overwinter in the beds.

And of course, while walking around I picked up some small flowering shrubs with amazing fall color to tuck at the end of the back border too.

fall plantings in the backyard garden
In addition to Emerald Feather Juniper, I picked up Snowball Spirea and Bluebeard Caryopteris.

Garden Tour and Why I Love Fall in My Gardening Zone 6a, New Jersey Garden

This post was originally written during 2019 when I shared a weekly garden tour of the beds. It’s amazing how much the gardens changes since before I moved!

The fall color in New Jersey is peaking this week and is just gorgeous!

I just love this time of year.

Since everything looks so beautiful right now, let’s check out the beds and I’ll show you where I planted my finds.

Front Porch Decor Ideas for fall with cornstalks, fairtytale pumpkins and garden mums
Front Yard Cottage Garden

The cottage garden that wraps around the front walkway looks so good right now!

My gourds are doing well on the front porch without disturbance from squirrels or my dogs.

And everything is looking beautiful for fall.

front yard fall garden ideas with bed that needs a leaf clean up in suburban home

I love how the scattered leaves look in the garden right now.

But they will need to be raked out when fall gardening season comes to a close.

The front porch garden mums are just starting to bloom.

I’ve been watering them daily to ensure they do not dry out.

Front entry fall garden ideas with sedum autumn joy and garden mums
I love how the Arbor Vitaes and Dwarf Alberta Spruces in the urns add interest to this border.
Front porch in fall with container garden display of dwarf alberata spruce with kale, garden mums and fairytale pumpkins

I am so happy that my pumpkin decor is still intact.

There is no squirrel or dog damage this year so I will definitely get these again next year!

front entry garden in fall with fall garden flowers
close up of front porch with black door and outdoor diy fall decor with autumm garden flowers

Look at how gorgeous the yellowing leaves of Balloon Flower brighten the garden.

We don’t always need blooms for color.

Foliage offers a similar impact on borders.

When I look back at my previous garden tour blogs, it is amazing how well Sedum Autumn Joy does throughout the garden season.

How beautiful is this color?

Close up of sedum autum joy
Well Garden

The well garden looks SO much better with the hydrangea and juniper.

I can’t wait to see how it all comes together next year!

close up of Fall Flowering Shrub Garden Ideas

The well garden may move into first place in my heart next year.

I love how much the Limelight Hydrangea and Green Columnar Juniper changed the vibe!

limelight hydrangea with callicarpa in the fall gardenShrub Garden Ideas

My Callicarpa looks amazing paired with Limelight Hydrangea.

I love this fall garden shrub combination.

Fall Flower Shrub Garden I with limelight hydrangea, callicarpa and juniper with smoke treedeas
I cannot wait to see this garden come in over the next few years.
smoketree, beautyberry, limelight hydrangea and juniper
Mailbox Garden

While the fall gardening season is ending, the mailbox garden is thriving!

I am really happy with yellow marigolds in this garden and will be sure to tuck them in next year.

I love that they look good in both spring AND fall.

Planning ahead a season when purchasing annuals is another great way to save money in the garden.

fall garden planted around the mailbox with sedum autumn joy

The Mailbox garden is still going.

We have not had a good frost yet so the annuals are still doing their thing!

fall garden planted around mailbox with sedum autumn joy, pumpkins and marigolds
Backyard Gardens

The fall foliage color is spectacular in the backyard gardens.

The borders look amazing while the trees, shrubs, and perennials start to change their color.

Don’t you love those bright autumnal hues?

shade garden in fall with hostas that are dying back

The backyard border looks so rustic right now with the perennials dying back and the leaves changing.

The fall color looks amazing!

backyard border in fall of suburban NJ garden

My Endless Summer Hydrangea is still blooming!

I need to wrap it soon to protect it from harsh winter elements.

Last winter damaged the buds.

Shade Garden in Fall with stinking hellebore, hostas, and leucothoe
I love the foliage combination of Hostas, Leucothoe and Hellebores.
backyard garden in fall

The burning bush in this border turns a darker shade of red every day!

By next week, it will be crimson.

backyard garden nj in fall
View of the Berry, Vegetable, and Shed Gardens.
backyard garden with garden shed in fall

I love how the backyard looks in the fall with the woods behind our property.

There used to be a lot more trees, but Superstorm Sandy took out several.

This is a view from my deck of the berry and shed gardens.

backyard garden view with playset in fall
View of the berry garden from the other side.
view of backyard garden from firepit
View of my back yard from the Fire Pit Garden.
backyard garden by garden shed with fall plantings that include sedum autumn joy and ornamental grass

While I don’t love the shed color, I love how it looks right now with all the fall color and blooms!

Looking at this photo, I want to move the Joe Pye Weed to the right of the vegetable garden entrance.

It is too tall for that spot so it is getting moved later this week.

Fall color is one of the reasons I love the change of seasons.

I would love to live in a climate where it is warm year-round, but I would truly miss this.

garden shed in fall with autumn garden flowers like sedum autumn joy, ornamental grass and fall foliage

Don’t you just love all that fall color?

I am so happy I added those new shrubs and trees to the beds and can’t wait to see how they look next year!

In the next week or so, I’m going to tuck more bulbs in the beds for some early spring color.

fall mailbox garden - 9 ways to start preparing the garden for winter
Follow the Weekly Garden Tour

I hope you enjoyed this week’s garden tour and appreciate you joining me!

If you missed a few tours or want to see how the garden has progressed during the growing season, you can see them all here:

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Close up of Oak Leaf Hydrangea leaves as it changes in fall
must-fo fall garden chores graphic with pink flowers blooming in garden

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