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Final fall to-do list

We have had a rollercoaster ride this fall with every type of weather, rain, drought and air temperatures imaginable! This year, Minnesota really lived up to the saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.”

For gardeners, it makes it hard to plan. We have some nice weather forecasted that most likely will give us one more opportunity to wrap up those last tasks before winter settles in.

Here’s a final fall checklist.

There’s still time to plant spring bulbs

White and purple crocus flowers.
Early blooming crocus provide early pollinators with food.

After a long winter, the sight of spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus, and snowdrops warms your gardening heart! We still have time to plant those bulbs as long as the soil is still workable (not frozen).

  • Most bulbs should be planted in full sun.
  • In spring, they need 8 weeks of full sun after blooming to manufacture energy for the following spring bloom.
  • Interplant bulbs in ground covers, amidst perennials, and in your entry garden where you'll see them every time you walk in or out of your front door.
  • Watch our video to learn how to plant a spring bulb garden.

Mow your lawn one last time (if you haven’t already)

  • Lower your mower to 2 inches to reduce the grass blades and discourage snow mold from forming next spring.
  • Service your mower and put it away for the winter.
  • It's also a good time to spread grass seed in preparation for a lush lawn next spring. Read about Dormant seeding.
Houseplant with white cottony mealybugs in leaves.
Mealybugs can be a gruesome problem when infesting houseplants.

Check over your houseplants

If you're like me, your houseplants spend the summer outside and you brought yours indoors a few weeks ago when temperatures dropped.

  • Examine your houseplants for insects (especially under the leaves).
  • Clean out plant debris that may have accumulated on the soil surface.
  • Wipe off the pot including the bottom and saucers.
  • Check each plant for damaged parts and trim off.
  • Consider transplanting into a slightly larger pot (by at least 2 inches+), and use fresh, sterile potting mix.
  • Read more on our Houseplants webpage.

Protect plants

Branches of a shrub with white areas where rabbits chewed the bark.
Animals can literally kill branches, stems, and sometimes the whole plant by chewing through bark.

Winter and wildlife can do a real number on landscape plants.

  • Wrap sensitive evergreens in burlap or create a barrier to reduce drying winds. 
  • Put tree guards on young trees like maple, birch and mountain ash, to prevent sunscald damage.
  • Put hardware cloth cages around young trees and shrubs to keep out animals like rabbits that like to nibble on the bark and branches in winter.
    • Be sure to make cages tall enough to accommodate snowfall as rabbits can sit on top of accumulated snow to browse on your plants.
  • Put bud caps on young pines if deer like to visit your yard. Deer will eat the top of a young pine leader and stunt the tree.
  • Trees and shrubs: Planting, protection and care has more information on preparing trees for winter.

Clean up tools and pots

Rack of colored gardening gloves hanging to dry.
Don’t forget to wash your gardening gloves before storing them for winter. Diseases can overwinter on pots, tools AND gloves!
  • Do yourself a favor and clean and sharpen your tools and containers before putting them away for the winter. Next spring, you’ll thank yourself.
  • This is a good weekend to wash pots with a bleach solution, clean and sharpen pruners and loppers, shovels and trowels.
  • Read about how to clean and disinfect gardening tools and containers.

Questions? Ask Extension can help you find answers 365 days a year.

Also, tune in to WCCO Smart Garden radio show, Saturdays 8-9 a.m. on AM 830 or streaming on radio.com. Denny Long hosts our Extension horticulture experts who provide advice and field listeners’ gardening calls and text messages.

Ultimately, winter will arrive and hopefully, we will have accomplished all we wanted to in our landscapes. Curl up on the couch next to your newly potted houseplants with next year's seed catalogs. Happy gardening!

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, Horticulture

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