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Fall garden cleanup: Preparing Your garden for winter

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

As the crisp autumn air rolls in and leaves start to change color, it's the perfect time to embark on the annual tradition of preparing your garden for the winter months.

At this juncture, a well-executed garden cleanup is essential for a thriving garden come spring.

Let's look at the specific tasks you can undertake to ensure your garden is ready for the chillier season ahead.

Why does the garden need a fall cleanup?

Our autumn garden cleanup serves several essential purposes. It's not just about keeping up appearances, although a tidy garden is certainly more inviting. By removing dead or decaying plant material, you reduce the potential hiding places for pests and diseases. This proactive approach to garden maintenance can help save your plants from diseases that might otherwise linger and spread in the soil or on the remaining plant material.

Pruning perennials in the autumn

Each perennial plant has its unique requirements for fall pruning, and your hostas, salvia, and liatris are no exception. These are just a few of the ones we're cutting back in the autumn:

  • Hostas: These hardy shade-loving perennials benefit from a good trim in the fall. Cut back the foliage to within a few inches of the ground, removing any leaves that have started to discolor or die off. This practice helps prevent rot and mold from settling in during the winter.

  • Salvia: Salvia plants often continue to bloom late into the season. When the flower spikes have lost their luster, it's a good time to prune them. You can also choose to cut the entire plant back by about one-third to encourage fresh, bushier growth next spring.

  • Liatris: Liatris is relatively low-maintenance in the fall, but you can enhance its performance by cutting back the spent flower spikes to the base of the plant. This will help maintain a tidy appearance and promote healthy growth when spring returns.

Wildlife-friendly gardening

It's heartwarming to consider the well-being of the wildlife that shares your garden space.

As you tidy up your garden, consider leaving some seed heads and plant material behind for the local birds and insects. This not only provides them with food during the lean winter months but also serves as natural shelter.

When should you do a garden cleanup?

The timing of your fall garden cleanup can significantly impact its effectiveness. You should aim to start your cleanup after the first frost has occurred or just a few weeks before.

Waiting until after the first frost ensures that most of your perennials have entered dormancy, reducing the risk of new growth being damaged by frost.

What garden tools do you need

Having the right tools for the job is essential for a successful garden cleanup. In addition to pruners and shears, consider using a rake, a sturdy wheelbarrow or garden cart, and a pair of high-quality gardening gloves to protect your hands from thorns and prickly debris.

Don't forget to compost

Instead of throwing all that garden waste into the trash, consider creating your own compost. Composting is an eco-friendly way to recycle organic material from your garden.

The resulting compost can be used to enrich your soil in the future, ensuring that your garden stays healthy and vibrant year after year.

A well-executed fall garden cleanup is more than just an aesthetic chore. It's a strategic investment in the health and vitality of your garden.

By paying special attention to perennials like hostas, salvia, and liatris, you'll set the stage for a magnificent garden comeback in the spring.

Don't forget to watch our video for a visual guide to autumn garden cleanup. Remember, your garden is a haven for you and local wildlife alike. Let's nurture our gardens and support the environment together.


Welcome to my garden

Hi! I'm Lars (Denmark).

Thanks for joining me as I share tips and inspiration for perennial gardening. 

Click below to see what's growing in my garden right now? 

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