The weather is cooler and it is the perfect time to be out in the garden! You may be growing some fall vegetables, flowers, or colorful perennials for fall, but it’s also the perfect time to focus on some garden maintenance. Not sure where to start? We’ve created a Fall Garden Cleanup Checklist so you can be sure to get all the most important tasks done!

fall garden cleanup

1. Don’t clean up everything- leave some plants for pollinators and birds

Dying plants, even if they can be eyesores, are often important food sources. As shown below, goldfinches love feasting on garden flowers that have dried, leaving seeds behind. And pollinators will greatly appreciate the last few blooms if you still have some in your garden. Almanac has a great guide all about how to care for wildlife during your garden cleanup.

2. Feed the Birds

Even if you followed step 1, now is a great time to put out a bird feeder as their natural food becomes more scarce in Autumn. The extra food will bring lots of beautiful birds into your garden.

diy bird feeder ideas
source: Sun Catcher Studio

3. Identify and remove any diseased plants

By the time fall comes around, it’s likely you’ve seen some diseases make their way into your garden. Some of these can survive the winter and show back up in spring if you leave plant material behind. Learn to spot these pesky diseases, then remove any affected plant material and burn it or discard is somewhere it can’t infect your plants again. And don’t put it in your compost!

4. Make note of pests 

This one is very important for vegetable gardens. Some pests can hang out in your soil through the winter and pop back up in the spring. As you go through your garden cleanup process, search for these pests so you can know what steps to take to prevent them from returning.

5. Prune the right perennials in fall

Timing is key with pruning. For example, you shouldn’t be pruning your roses yet, and it’s best to wait to prune hydrangeas until well after all foliage has died off. But there are lots of flowering perennials that should be pruned in the fall- like peonies. The Spruce has a super helpful list of other perennials that need fall pruning, like catmint (below).

6. Divide your perennials

Now is the time to dig up those overgrown perennials, divide them into smaller plants, and replant. Doing it now instead of spring gives the new plants a chance to put down roots and be ready to go when winter is over.

7. Dig up tender bulbs

Depending on your hardiness zone, some bulbs will need to be dug and stored over winter. Provide a bit of airflow and a cool environment for the ideal storage environment. A paper or mesh bag stashed in a basement is usually a good option, and for more details check out Garden Gate Magazine’s helpful guide on storing your bulbs.

8. On the topic of bulbs, be sure to order them!

Ok, this isn’t a cleanup step, but it’s something that should definitely be done around the same time as your fall garden cleanup project. Check out our spring bulbs guide for helpful tips and resources on how to select and where to buy quality bulbs.

Bulb Crazy - Plan A Spring Bulb Garden Now

9. Amend your Soil

This is a great time of year to work compost into your soil to improve the texture, drainage or available nutrients. If compost from your own yard or kitchen is not available, pick up a couple bags at the store. Do this every fall to have the best garden on the block.

soil amendments for fall garden cleanup

10. Clean up those leaves and use them in your garden

After amending your soil, take advantage of all the dead leaves you’re likely cleaning up. You can utilize dead leaves as a great first layer of mulch, or add them to your compost.

11. Mulch garden beds in fall, but wait a bit for trees

I recently saw this advice and thought it made so much sense. For plants that are tender to the cold, go ahead and mulch to provide much needed insulation. With trees, however, it can be beneficial to wait until after the first frost. This allows some icy water to penetrate around the roots and kill off some weaker pests and/or diseases.

12. Feed the lawn!

If you want that rich green lawn in spring, it needs some attention now. Talk to your local nursery about the right nutrients and fertilizer to apply to get a head start on your lawn for next spring.


13. Sprinkler Care

In late fall, empty all hoses, place faucet protectors, and have your underground systems winterized (blown out) to protect from freezes this winter.