5-Minute Garden Chores for Fall

Before the snow flies, spend a few minutes on these garden chores to be sure your yard is ready for winter.

mums with frostCourtesy Dana Cable
Mums after the first frost.

Ready or not, here comes winter! For many folks, winter means the end of outdoor gardening. Before you close up shop for the season, take a moment or two to address some final garden chores. These simple tasks don’t need to take hours, but they’ll make for a better gardening experience when spring finally arrives.

Mark Plant Locations

Now’s the time to use sturdy plant markers to note the location of any new perennials, bulbs, or seeds you might forget about come spring. There’s nothing more frustrating than accidentally weeding out seedlings in the spring along with pesky weeds, or planting something on top of something else without realizing it. There’s no need for anything fancy. Try a permanent marker and paint stir stick, topped with a coat of clear gloss spray enamel. You don’t need it to look pretty. You just need it to last until spring.

Discover why dividing perennials is good for your plants AND your budget.

Protect Your Roses

If you’re a rose gardener, this is one of those garden chores that goes without saying. But if you’re new to growing roses, or have a special rose bush you’d like to protect, this chore is worth a few minutes of your time. Trim tall canes and cover roses to protect from cold weather. Clean up any diseased leaf debris and apply a new layer of mulch to your beds.

Learn how to choose the best roses for your garden.

Lift Tender Bulbs

Some plants grow well outdoors in the summer, but just can’t take the winter cold. These include plants like dahlias, gladioli, and tuberous begonias, depending on where you live. Lifting plants generally involves digging them up carefully, ridding them of excess dirt, allowing the bulb or tuber to dry out, and storing carefully in a cool dry place for the winter (garages are often ideal, but protect your treasures from mice). If you need help, do a web search for your specific plant type and the word “overwinter”. Learn more about how to overwinter non-hardy bulbs.

Fall is also the time to plant bulbs for spring color, such as tulips.

Garden Chores

Clean Your Tools

It’s true that this is one of those garden chores that might take more than five minutes, depending on how many tools you have. At the very minimum, though, fall is the time to give everything a good spray-down with the garden hose to remove excess dirt, and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them away to avoid rust. Bonus: Drain your garden hoses and bring them in when you’re done, since water left in hoses over winter can lead to cracking and bursting.

Psst—here’s 5 essential tools for fall garden cleanup.

Leave the Leaves Alone

This last chore takes the least amount of time, but possibly the most willpower! Many of us were brought up to believe we must tidy up our yards in the fall, removing all the fallen leaves. In truth, you might be doing more harm than good. Many organisms overwinter in that leaf litter, including some butterfly larvae and chrysalises. Leaves break down in your garden beds due to the winter weather, adding valuable organic material. The leaves also provide shelter and warmth for wildflowers and other plants growing below. Make things easy on yourself this fall—leave the leaves alone!

Here’s more tips for getting your garden ready for winter.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.