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Prepare for spring with autumn garden chores

Robin Trott - U of M Extension Educator

These crisp autumn days find me in my garden harvesting, weeding and preparing for next year’s growing season. Some well spent time in your garden this fall will save you time next spring.

The following list of fall chores will focus your efforts this season and give you some breathing room next spring.

You first step is to clean out any beds that have finished producing. Removing dead plant material helps protect your garden from disease-causing pathogens that can overwinter in the soil.

Dispose of spent plants by composting them (if healthy) or throwing them away (if diseased). If you haven’t had a soil test done in a while, send that sample in. Fall is the ideal time to add needed amendments based on soil recommendations.

If you are planning to start a new garden bed in the spring, get it ready now. A clean garden bed with tilled and amended soil is ready to be planted in the spring.

Fall is the time to plant garlic, tulips, daffodils and many other spring flowering bulbs. Choose the largest bulbs you can find. Bulbs are energy storage units, and the larger they are, the more robust your flowers will be. 

Plant bulbs according to package directions. The basic rule of thumb is that the hole should be at least three times as deep as the width of the bulb. Visit

Lift tender bulbs like gladiola, dahlia and tuberous begonia. Carefully, remove bulbs from the ground, leaving any foliage attached. Let them dry in a well-ventilated area for a week or so.

Remove remaining foliage and store in a cool dry place in an onion bag, paper bag or peat moss.


Many tender perennials need extra cover to help them survive the winter months. Roses can be heavily mulched or tipped. Strawberries need a four- to six-inch mulch cover and newly planted or tender perennials will also benefit from a mulch cover.

Wait until the ground has frozen to avoid providing habitat for overwintering rodents that can damage strawberries and perennials.

Autumn is the final opportunity for many plants to reproduce, so they put one last effort into seed production. Weed your garden thoroughly, paying particular attention to plants that are going to seed.

Aerate, de-thatch, over-seed and fertilize your lawn to give it a green jumpstart next spring.

If you have other questions regarding fall chores, visit the extension website at 

Until next time, happy gardening!