Prepare Your Garden for the First Fall Freeze

Your garden may still be overflowing with flowers, peppers, squash, zucchini and other late-season produce and vegetation, but the first freeze of the season could happen any time.

We’ve got tips to prepare your garden beds and lawn after the growing season is over. Next up: relax and enjoy the literal fruits of your labor! 

Spruce up your space

Fall is a busy time with the start of school, activities, harvesting and preserving. Weeding and watering often fall by the wayside. If you’re like many home gardeners, the temptation to let freezing winter temperatures take care of the weeds in your garden beds is strong. The fall weeding can wait until after your harvest slows, but you don’t want to struggle to clean out garden beds in wet spring soil while also in a rush to plant. 

Don’t worry, you can still let that first freeze hit before you start tugging out the weeds in your garden bed, around the perimeter of your house and between the cracks of your driveway. It’s also a good idea to gather pots, tomato cages, stakes and scraps of string that may have supported vining plants.

Gather leaves

This tip sounds like a no-brainer, but don’t toss leaves in the trash. Those crunchy leaves still hold value even after their vibrant colors fade. Shredded leaves make a great mulch to cover winterized garden beds, and the remnants can be worked into soil in the spring.  

Tend compost

Don’t forget to give your compost pile a little love this season. Composting shredded leaves and seasonal plants is a great way to recycle organic, nutrient-rich material. Fallen and rotted vegetables and weeds also can be added to the pile. However, any plants or soil touched by blight or mildew during spring or summer should can contaminate compost. Clear space in the bin by working already composted material into soil that was depleted during the growing season. 

Cover beds and perennials

Did you deck your front porch out with straw bales, pumpkins and other fall décor? Get double duty out of your straw bales by spreading a thin layer of straw on garden beds and perennials. Leaves also can be used as organic mulch. Plants you’d like to overwinter — such as strawberries, garlic and small perennial shrubs and bushes, including roses — need a little layer of insulation to keep them from freezing or rotting during harsh winter weather. However, make sure the layer of mulch isn’t deeper than two inches. If soil is too warm, the freeze won’t kill off garden pests and diseases.    

If you have perennials in the path of falling clumps of snow or ice throughout the winter, a tomato cage and other supports could help prevent branches from being damaged.

Boost soil 

Consider how much produce the soil in your garden beds and lawn provided in the last four months. Testing and fertilizing your depleted soil in the fall gives you a head start in the spring, especially because some fertilizers need time to properly break down. Additionally, lightly feeding perennials helps them overwinter because plants’ roots still grow unless the ground is completely frozen.







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