How to Care for Your Garden in Autumn

By Taylor Smith 

New Jersey residents are lucky enough to experience four distinct seasons; however, this also means that gardeners must prepare for winter and put their gardens to bed each year. In terms of a vegetable garden, preparing your beds for winter will increase the chance that your garden stays healthy from year to year. A sure sign that winter is fast approaching is when the first frost has killed off most of your annuals. For an area that does not see frost, you can begin your cleanup after the annual plants have started to brown and die. 

Plant Spring Bulbs

Spring flowering bulbs should be planted in mid-September through October in New Jersey when soil temperatures fall below 60 degrees F. This allows adequate  time for root systems to develop before the soil freezes. The bulb bed should also be covered with two to three inches of mulch in order to minimize temperature fluctuations. 

Clear Out the Vegetable Garden

Late fall typically signifies the end of the outdoor growing season in the Northeast. It’s important to pull everything out of your garden before the first freeze sets in. Make sure that no decaying plants are left behind, as they can become home to pests and spread unwanted diseases. 

Aerate the Lawn 

Punching holes in the soil and extracting plugs of dirt provides your lawn with water, oxygen, and fertilizer. Following aeration is an excellent time to patch bald spots with grass seed. 

Clean the Gutters

Keeping your gutters free and clean of leaves and other debris allows for the water to drain properly and significantly reduces any major problems during the post-winter spring cleanup. 

Scour Flower Pots

Use a stiff-bristled brush to thoroughly clean and rinse all gardening pots. Whether pots are clay or plastic, mineral deposits and debris can cause problems for your future plantings. Once clean, turn your pots upside down to prevent them from filling with water, freezing, and cracking. 

Cover Your Plants

In order to keep hardy container gardens (like succulents) from freezing, cover them with a tarp. Also, be sure to bring all of your delicate potted plants inside. 

Stow Away Garden Hoses

Winter weather can wreak havoc on a hose, causing leaks. Empty hoses of water and keep them stored away from the elements.