Why Fall Clean Ups - wildflower in a field
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Boulder Landscape and Design

Fall Clean Ups: Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Why fall clean ups? Think of it as the beginning of your next growing season! Though the garden slows down in the fall it is still hard at work. A bit of work in the garden now will reap HUGE rewards in the coming spring.

Tips for cleaning up to prepare your garden for winter:

  1. Remove fallen leaves.

    Why Fall Clean Ups - wildflower in a fieldTree leaves do not decompose easily on the lawn or garden. They leach tannins that can kill a lawn and imbalance soil pH, and provide a harbor for pests and plant pathogens to overwinter.

  2. Cut back perennial plants.

    These are flowering or vegetative plants that come back every year. Cut them back to within a few inches of the soil and they will survive to delight you in the spring. If their foliage is healthy and pest free, put it in the compost bin. (Note: some gardeners like the look of snow on spent perennial plants. It is OK to leave them and cut back in the very early spring.)

  3. Clear your beds of annual plants.

    (Take a picture of them or draw a map first if you want to replicate the look for next year!) These are the plants that do not come back after the winter, such as petunias, dahlias, marigolds, salvia and so forth – the ones that come in four- or six-packs at the store. If they are healthy, compost the spent plants!

  4. Trim back.

    Trim overgrown shrubs and prune broken or unwanted tree branches.

  5. Feed your plants.

    Get a soil test and add natural, organic amendments and fertilizers to break down over the winter so your garden gets a good spring boost.

  6. Winterize your lawn with a natural slow-release grass food.

    The roots will continue to get food throughout the winter, causing them to grow strong and more deeply. This is better than an early spring fertilizer that simply encourages rapid growth of new shoots, leaving them susceptible to disease and pests.

  7. Bring in any potted plants.

    Many varieties will live over the winter in a cool basement. Wrap the containers with newspaper and plastic bags, and put them in a dark corner. Do not water or fertilize again until you can safely place them outside in spring.

  8. Refresh your mulch.

    Place more mulch after the ground freezes to help keep roots moist and warm.

  9. Plant for next season!

    Most of us remember the spring bulbs in fall, but it is also a great time to plant trees, shrubs, and even some winter-hardy perennials and annuals. Pansies overwinter wonderfully along the front range and come into bloom early to mid spring.

  10. Showcase your winter show-offs.

    If you have red twig dogwoods, hawthorns, mahonia or other shrubs and trees that keep their color or berries throughout the fall, be sure to cut back other plants around them so they stand out in the winter garden.