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Women pushing the wheelbarrow full of pumpkins

Since the summer has ended, it’s time to pull on your gardening gloves and head back outside to dig into fall planting and preparation for the coming year.

To help you begin, we received advice from various gardening experts on how to prepare for a fall garden in multiple regions throughout America.

Fall Gardening on the Gulf Coast

Internationally recognized artist and designer Pablo Solomon provided tips on how you can prepare your garden if you live along the Gulf Coast or in the lower South.

Solomon lives in Texas Hill, Texas, a wine country area near Austin. He’s been in landscape design for nearly 50 years.

“The climate here is crazy – very hot and dry in the summer,” he said. “And usually most of the year, yet subject to very cold spells that usually only last a week or so.”

Because the frigidness of winter arrives early in the South, Solomon recommends not waiting too long to start gardening and landscaping after the brutal summer heat.

“Along the Gulf Coast and most of the lower South, fall is the time to plant trees and shrubs,” said Solomon. “This gives them all winter to adjust and build a root system. Waiting to plant in the spring in hot, dry areas will not work so well.”

Are you having issues with your gnarly trees and shrubs? Fall is also a great time to tackle this issue. Solomon recommends applying a tree wound product to reduce bug infestation in the trees or shrubs you trim.

And instead of disposing of those raked leaves, pour them on your compost pile to turn into soil over the winter. Your leftover leaves make great mulch, which will help add nutrients and retain water in your soil for the coming year.

“The fall is also a good time to till your soil and work in fertilizers and compost so it can be strengthening over the winter, collecting moisture and not just packing down,” said Solomon.

Fall Planting and Cleanup in the Midwest and Northeast

With back-to-school routines, football games, bonfires and other fall activities, most gardeners wish they had remembered to do one important task in their garden – cleaning up.

For fall gardening advice in the Midwest and Northeast, we got tips from Marketing and Communication Specialist Lauren Tuski from AmericanHort, the Association of Horticultural Professionals, on what it takes to the clean the garden.

“For annuals, it means removing them from the landscape and composting them. For soft, herbaceous perennials (think plants without bark), it means cutting them back to 3 to 4 inches,” said Tuski. “This will give the fresh sprouts plenty of room to grow and breathe next season.”

For tending to any woody plants, Tuski recommends researching before you jump in on the project headfirst.

“Timing of when your woody shrubs flower determines the best time to prune. And never ever use a hedger. They’re a horticulturist’s nightmare unless you’re crafting a topiary work of art with the right variety in a Parisian garden.”

Instead, use pruning tools to maintain your woody plants for a cleaner cut. Along with sprucing up your garden for the coming year, don’t forget to empty out your porch pots and store them from winter elements. Doing this will set you up for success when it’s time to fill them with plants in the spring.

However, before putting your pots away for good in the winter, you can make them festive by filling them with gourds and squash for the fall season.

“Harvest squash and gourds in the fall when the plant starts to brown and shrivel,” said Tuski. “It’s important to remember that if you’re using gourds for decorative purposes, be careful not to nick or puncture the skin – it can cause bruising and allow bacteria to take over the plant.”
If you love shopping for plants, Tuski also recommends doing a final round of plant buying for the season. She recommends pansies, violas, ornamental cabbage, mums and asters.

“Pansies and violas will likely keep and re-bloom for the spring, which again gets you ahead when spring rolls back around,” said Tuski. “As for mums and asters, many are hardy, but your likelihood of success with them taking root as a perennial depends on how quickly you can plant them.”

To give your plants a jumpstart, Tuski recommends the plant food product, Biotone. You can use it whenever you plant something (typically trees, shrubs and perennials) in the fall that you want to come back in the next year.

“The biggest thing is to simply enjoy the process. Gardening is an art and a science unlike anything else,” said Tuski. “It takes practice, patience and courage to experiment and try again when things don’t go according to plan. As long as you get out there, get some dirt under your nails, and do your best, you’re a successful gardener.”

West Coast Fall Gardening Advice

John Toepfer, president of content at Blooming Secrets has more than 20 years of gardening experience. He provides tips on how to prepare your garden for fall on the West Coast. Horticulturalists refer to this part of the country as zones 8 – 11.

“In warmer zones 8 through 11, you can continue to plant cooler weather vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower,” said Toepfer. “You can also still plant seeds, including spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots and turnips.”

Once it’s mid-fall, you can continue to plant lettuce seed every two weeks to ensure steady supply of produce for the cooler months ahead.

“Gardeners in zones 8 through 11 can plant not only pansies, but also petunias, snapdragons, and alyssum to enjoy throughout the rest of the fall and winter,” said Toepfer.

Also, according to the “West Coast Gardening Guide” produced by Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, small fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries grow best on the coast.

Similar to the Gulf Coast, fall is also the prime time to plant trees because they remain dormant. This gives trees time to settle and create a root system.


Fall cleanup is just as necessary on the West Coast as it is in the Midwest. Once you’re finished, you should clean, sharpen and sterilize your tools so they will be ready to use next year.

“Cleaning your tools now will allow you to hit the ground running in the spring,” said Toepfer.

Best Time to Buy Fertilizers

Since there is a reduced economic demand for fertilizer in the fall and winter, Anthony Smith, president of Nursery Enterprises in Idaho, recommends buying fertilizer now for spring and summer.

“The demand for fertilizer decreases earlier, like in early fall or even late summer in the colder parts of the country, and it decreases later in the fall in the warmer parts of the country,” said Smith.

Do you have any fall gardening advice in your location? Share in the comments below!

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