You’ve made it through the prime growing season, but you’re not finished with those gardening tasks yet! Here are some ways to prepare your garden for a hearty spring by preparing it for the chilly weather.

October marks a pivotal time for gardeners. It’s not just about enjoying the last bits of outdoor beauty; it’s also about laying the groundwork for a thriving garden next spring.

Here are a few tips for prepping your garden for winter:

1. Harvest the Bounty

After you’ve worked hard all year growing your garden, make sure you harvest your crops before it gets too cold. This time of year, apples, tomatoes, squash, carrots, and many other seasonal fruits and vegetables are perfectly ripe for the picking. (For some harvest season food ideas, check out What to Do With Your Fall Fruits and Veggies.)

2. Plant Bulbs for Spring Magic

As the ground cools, seize the opportunity to plant spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and crocuses. Ideally, the soil should be between 40-50 degrees (any lower than that, and the roots will freeze). Today’s efforts will yield a spectacular burst of color come spring.

3. Install Trees and Shrubs

Believe it or not, fall is actually the best time of year to plant many varieties of trees and shrubs. The cooler weather is beneficial for root growth, so getting them in the ground before winter allows trees and shrubs to build a strong foundation for prime growing time in spring. (For tips on how to do this effectively, check out Planting New Trees in Your Yard.)

4. Feed the Soil

Prepare your garden beds for the next growing season by amending the soil with compost and other natural materials This provides valuable nutrients, setting the stage for vibrant, thriving plants. You can even use fallen leaves once you’ve finished raking your lawn!

5. Tend to Perennials

Love your perennial plants by dividing and transplanting them, if needed. For heartier perennials like sunflowers and peonies, it’s best to wait out the first few hard frosts before cutting back dead flowers and leaves. Dig up tender plants, such as dahlias and gladiolas, and plant them in pots to bring indoors through the winter.

6. Maintain the Lawn

October is a great time to give your lawn some attention. Aerate the soil to improve air circulation and water absorption, and sow grass seed to fill in bare patches. Make sure to continue mowing your lawn and cleaning up debris (like those pesky falling leaves) to avoid smothering your grass or growing snow mold.

7. Protect Against Frost

Keep an eye on the forecast and cover delicate plants with frost cloths, sheets, or lightweight tarps that trap ground heat when temperatures drop. Delicate plants like herbs and annuals can still thrive for several more weeks with a little protection.

8. Water with Care

As your plants prepare for winter, they still need water – right up until the ground starts freezing. During this time, you can water less frequently for a more gradual transition, but make sure to focus the hydration close to the roots.

9. Clear Out Water Features

Though your winged friends may get upset, it’s important to clean and remove water features like birdbaths and fountains before temperatures hit the freezing point. Turn off running water to prevent bursting pipes, and empty and store fixtures to ensure they’re in optimal condition to use next spring.

10. Clean Up Beds

A tidy garden today means a healthier garden in the coming seasons. Remove spent annuals and weeds to prevent disease and pests from spoiling the health of your soil. Also, remember to remove any leftover cages, stakes, or supports.

October is the bridge between your garden’s past and future. Following these tips ensures a vibrant, colorful fall while sowing the seeds for a flourishing spring. (Don’t forget to make one last stop at Chippewa Valley Growers before we close for the season!)

For fun facts about nature this time of year, check out The Magnificent History of Chrysanthemums and What is an Autumnal Equinox?

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