What to do in the garden in fall

Harvesting, cleaning up, sowing, planting… A summary of all the work to get done in the garden before winter sets in.

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At the vegetable patch

The clock is ticking for the last harvests of many fruits and vegetables. The word “abundance” describes the fact of having far to much than you can eat immediately: get the kitchen ready for jams, preserves, sauces, jars… or pack it all up in the freezer! Root vegetables and leaf vegetables can spend winter out in the ground without rooting them out, but it’s important to gather pears, apples, potatoes and squashes in a room that is dry, cool and doesn’t freeze over.

Soil in newly vacant growing beds can be broken up before winter with a manual broadfork. Add manure or compost and sow green manure or at least cover with mulch. What counts here is to ensure the soil stays covered so that nutrients don’t get washed away with rain runoff. Cover also reduces weed growth.

If you plan to rely on your garden vegetables for winter, now is the time to sow winter lettuce, turnips, cabbage, leek
 and plant strawberry plants for them to root over the cold months. They’ll be ready for fruit-bearing in summer.

In the ornamental garden

Season’s cleaning for the lawn, in flower beds and along walkways! During all the autumn months, you’ll have to rake up dead leaves which you can recycle in your compost or spread around for mulch. Fall is the time to ready the tools for pruning trees, shrubs and hedges. Once shredded, branches and organic matter can be used for mulch or start another cycle in the compost pile.

In the flower beds, fall is when to prune your roses and plant new ones. It’s also appropriate to bury spring bulbs and sow biennials and several types of annuals such as pansies, papaver poppies and nigella.

Before the first winter frosts set on, you’ll have to bring your garden boxes and containers inside or protect them, especially those that fear the cold. Pelargoniums and summer flowering bulbs can be stored in the cellar. Mediterranean or tropical plants (bougainvillea, oleander, olive trees, citrus, cactuses, etc.) must overwinter in a location that doesn’t freeze over but still gets some light through a window.

In the orchard grove

Apart from harvesting fruits and pruning trees, fall is the season for planting new fruit trees. November is best for this, according to the saying that goes “in November, any tree sprouts roots”. Plant your trees (you can buy them bare-rooted) in a wide hole in which you’ll have planted a stake. Root-dip the clump, cover with soil, water to avoid air pockets and mulch. The graft joint must be set just above soil level.

If your trees show signs of disease, apply a preventive spraying of Bordeaux mixture just after the leaves have dropped off. Repeat this step in spring just before the first buds appear.

Read also: Fruit trees: after the harvest, time for proper care

Laure Hamann