Putting Your Garden to Bed in the Fall

Once the first fall frost comes and goes, many a person lets their garden come and go too– with the promise that next year I will plant again. Or next year I am going to do things a bit differently. This fall, as your garden winds down, consider what you can do now to give your next garden a head start. One may be tempted to skip these steps, but they will make a big difference in your success.

Begin by prepping your garden beds so when spring planting comes, your soil will be ready to embrace the seeds you will carefully select from the catalogs that will arrive this winter.

  1. Clean up garden beds and pots by removing old plants and vines. Check them to ensure they are pest free, and place them in your compost. Plants left to die in the garden create an environment for insect pests to lay eggs which will hatch in the spring. If your old plants are free of disease, work them back into your soil, providing valuable organic material, if you don’t compost.
  2. Mulch, mulch, mulch– you may have heard that phrase or to add organic material to your garden beds. But what does that mean? Mulching is the practice of providing a layer of organic material to your garden beds and flower pots to enrich the soil, protecting it against erosion and evaporation of moisture. Organic material includes leaves, straw, peat moss, coffee grounds and aged manure. Micro-organisms and beneficial soil insects will work these organic materials into the soil before the ground freezes this fall and next spring when it thaws. A fall application of one to two inches will help resupply the soil with nutrients, creating a rich environment for seeds, seedlings and plants next spring. Give the process a head start by incorporating mulch or compost into the soil instead of placing it on top.
  3. Remove any weeds – It does not matter where in your yards the weeds are; this is the right time to get rid of them. Removing them now will save time and energy next spring. Consider how many seeds can come from one plant that spreads its seeds. One example is lambsquarter; it can produce as many as 72,000 seeds per plant! Yes, it is definitely better and a worthwhile endeavor to pull weeds this fall.
  4. Clean up the garden and shed area. Toss any trash, broken stakes, unusable flower pots, broken boards, etc. into the garbage or recycle bins as appropriate.
  5. Clean, disinfect and sharpen garden tools before putting them away for the winter. Just as in cleaning up the garden beds or flower pots, insect pests and disease can survive on tools left unclean between growing seasons.

Once these fall tasks are completed, enjoy planning next year’s garden, knowing that your garden beds are ready.


Liz Morrow is a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer with University of Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening and landscaping in Nevada, contact a Master Gardener at mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu or 775-336-0265.