Fall garden cleanup can be very stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post, I will tell you when to start and which chores you safely can skip.
Then I’ll give you my 5 best tips and hacks to speed things up, as well as tools and techniques you can use to simplify your life.
Do You Really Need To Clean Your Garden In The Fall?
When I first started gardening, I thought I had to completely clean all of my beds and get everything done before the snow flew. And I mean everything.
I thought I had to remove every little bit of dead plant material, fallen leaves, and other debris in the fall (I’m a bit of a clean freak). OMG did I make things stressful for myself!
Well guess what? You don’t need to have a completely clean garden in the fall after all. In fact, it’s actually good to leave many things in your beds until spring.
Chores You Can Skip
Here are three major fall garden chores that you can skip all together if you want, which will save you tons of time (and stress).
Keep The Leaves In Your Garden
Leaves are good for the garden and feed the soil as they break down. They also help to add a layer of winter mulch that can protect your plants from the harsh cold.
So don’t spend time cleaning them out, leave them in your beds. They’ll break down quickly, and you can mulch right over them.
Leave The Foliage On Your Plants
Dead plant material is a wonderful place for beneficial insects to hibernate during the winter. Removing all of the plant material in the fall means you could be destroying the good bugs that overwinter in your garden.
So don’t cut everything back. The one big exception to this is irises. You definitely want to cut those down in the fall to avoid an iris borer infestation next summer.
Don’t Deadhead All Of The Flowers
Flowers, like coneflowers and sunflowers, have seeds that feed the birds, squirrels, and other animals through the winter months. So don’t remove all of the flower heads, leave some out there to feed the wildlife.
Many perennials are also wonderful winter interest plants, so you can continue to enjoy your gardens even when they’re covered by snow.
When To Clean Up Your Garden In The Fall
The best time to start is after the first few freezes have killed most of the plants. Freezing temperatures are a trigger for perennials that it’s time to begin the process of going dormant.
If you start cutting things back too early it could trigger new growth, and you don’t want to do that in the fall or it could shock the plant. So it’s good to wait until everything is fully dormant.
5 Fall Garden Cleanup Tips That Will Simplify Your Life
Over the years I’ve come up with several shortcuts to speed things up for myself. Here are my 5 tips that will simply your fall garden cleanup.
1. Don’t Cut Everything Back
In the fall you should cut down early-blooming perennials, like peonies, tulips, bleeding heart, and irises for example.
That way you don’t have to worry about damaging the new growth when you clean up your gardens in the spring.
I also recommend deadheading aggressive self-seeders, like rudbeckias, columbine, and liatris, so they don’t spread all over your garden.
2. Get Yourself A Leaf Blower
Trust me on this, a leaf blower is worth every penny. I used to be a rake girl, and actually kinda enjoyed raking the yard (until my arms felt like they would fall off).
But now that I have a blower, I can’t believe how much easier it makes my fall garden cleanup. All I have to do now is blow the leaves right into my beds or a nice, neat pile. It’s much faster and easier.
3. Use Your Lawn Mower As A Leaf Vacuum
Another huge time saver is using your lawn mower like a vacuum cleaner to suck up the leaves from your lawn.
Put the bag on your mower to capture the clippings, then dump them into yard waste bags, your compost bin, or directly into your garden to use as mulch.
Or, leave the mower bag off and mulch the leaves directly into the lawn instead, they’re good for the grass too.
Related Post: How To Winterize Your Garden
4. Use A Hedge Trimmer To Cut Back Perennials
I used to spend hours and hours cutting everything back with hand pruners until my husband came out with the electric trimmer to help me one day, and it was a game changer!
It takes a few seconds to cut back each plant. Then all I have to do is pick up the cuttings and toss them into the yard waste bin.
5. Focus On Critical Fall Garden Cleanup Tasks & Let The Rest Go
My last tip to simplify your fall garden cleanup is to focus on the most essential tasks, and let the rest go. Don’t worry, it will be waiting for you in the spring.
I wish someone would have given me this advice when I was a newbie, because it really does take the stress and pressure off.
More Gardening Tips
- How To Prepare Your Vegetable Garden For Winter
- How To Protect Plants From Frost Damage
- When & How To Plant Flower Bulbs In The Fall
- How To Preserve A Carved Pumpkin
Add your tips to simplify fall garden cleanup, or share your checklist in the comments section below.