Your Garden Checklist for Fall

Mark & Ben Cullen share expert tips for your garden this fall

To help you get a grip on fall, we offer you our comprehensive to-do list for gardeners. Put it somewhere that it will remind you regularly what you need to consider to enjoy a great-looking garden come spring.

Your investment in a great-looking garden next spring and summer is a partnership between you and nature. And, like every relationship, you need to do your part to get the results you are looking for. From late September through to November, here are our top tips.

What to Do In the Vegetable Garden

  • Dig your carrots, leeks, leftover potatoes etc. and store in bushel baskets ½ full of pure, dry sand. Put them in your basement or fruit cellar.
  • Pull up your remaining tomato plants and hang them in the cellar or the garage while the green fruit ripens. They do not need light to do this.
  • Harvest leaf lettuce, mesclun and the like.
  • Remove the spent bean and tomato plants, etc. and put them in your compost.
  • Pumpkins are 98% water. On November 1st, I recommend that you drop it on your garden soil and chop it up with a sharp spade and turn it under the soil. Or put it in your compost. You don’t need to chop it up – the deep frost of November will turn it to mush.

How to Prepare Your Lawn

  • Fertilize your lawn – this is the most important application of the year. The nutrition that your lawn receives this time of year will not produce a great-looking lawn this fall, but it will strengthen the grass roots and prepare the plants for a fast green-up come spring. The results are less snow mould and a stronger, green lawn after the spring melt. Use 1-2 cm of finished compost on top of your soil.
  • Cut your lawn (soon for the last time!) about 2 ½ inches or 6 cm high.
  • Lubricate your lawn mower, sharpen the blades, clean the cutting deck and spray with mineral oil.
  • Rake the leaves off your lawn. Put them on your perennial beds and veggie garden, where they will break down and help to build the organic matter in your soil.

Now’s the Time to Compost & Collect Leaves

  • Put spent annuals in your composter or compost pile in layers with fallen leaves (shredded with your lawn mower). Alternate 1 part green stuff with 3 parts leaves — follow these 10 tips to make your own compost.
  • Remove the finished compost from your compost unit or pile and spread it over your perennial bed or veggie garden. No need to dig it in, as the worms will pull it down next spring.
  • Steal leaves from your neighbours who have not yet seen this column and have put their leaves out for recycling pick up, neatly pressed into paper bags for you to take home and compost. Free fertilizer.
  • Plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring-flowering bulbs.

5 Showstopping Spring Bulb Combinations

Protect Your Shrubs and Ornamentals

  • Winterize your roses that are not of the ‘shrub’ type. Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas etc. will need about 50 cm (1 ½ feet) of fresh mulch piled up from the bottom.
  • Wrap spiral plastic collars on young fruit trees to protect them from rodent damage (anytime).
  • Spray broad-leafed evergreens with Wilt-Pruf (an anti-desiccant) to prevent the drying effects of winter wind. (When killing frosts are here and just before the snow flies.)
  • Wipe down all of your digging and cutting tools with a cloth soaked in mineral oil when you are finished with them for the season.

The air is clear, and hopefully you’ll get some sunshine for your fall work days!

Mark & Ben Cullen
Mark & Ben Cullen

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster and tree advocate
and holds the Order of Canada. His son, Ben, is a fourth-generation
urban gardener and a graduate of the University of Guelph and Dalhousie
University in Halifax. Follow them at, @MarkCullen4
(Twitter) and @markcullengardening (Facebook) and look for their latest book, Escape to Reality.

Follow them at, @MarkCullen4, and biweekly on Global TV’s national morning show, The Morning Show.

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Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2023
Filed under DIY | Food Gardening | Gardening

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