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The 2 Most Important Fall Garden Tasks Of All! Autumn Garden Care 101

There are a lot of garden tasks in the fall that can help to create a healthier, more productive vegetable garden.

But of all, there are 2 that certainly stand out as mattering the most.

If you take a little time to perform both this fall, you set the stage for a more productive garden next year.

fall garden tasks
There are 2 fall garden tasks that are vital in keeping your garden healthy and strong.

And if you don’t? Well, you are almost certainly asking for next year’s garden to have more pests and more weeds. And a lot more maintenance and work for you!

Here is a look at the two most important fall garden tasks of all, and why they are so crucial to your garden’s ongoing health and success.

The 2 Must-Do Fall Garden Tasks

#1 Removing All Plants, Foliage & Weeds

No matter what, get those old, decaying vegetable plants out of the garden!

Unfortunately, all too often, gardeners grow weary of their garden by fall.

Some have grown tired of the battle with weeds or watering. While others have picked so much produce, they simply can’t handle anymore.

fall garden tasks - autumn garden care
Allowing plants to wither and decay in the garden creates a multitude of problems for the following year’s garden.

And so it happens, the garden sits and slowly decays. With every single weed and pest hanging around with it. Sometimes all the way up until next spring.

The Issue With Leaving Vegetable Plants In The Garden

Leaving this year’s vegetable plants to overwinter in the garden is simply asking for trouble.

As plants sit and decay, bad things begin to happen. Pests in the garden find a more permanent home. And they begin to multiply.

cucumber plant
Remove plants as soon as they begin to fade and are no longer producing fruit or vegetables.

And as they do, they also lay larvae and eggs that overwinter in both the plants and soil.

All of which of course will lead to more pests in next year’s garden.

Encouraging Disease & Blight

But leaving plants in the garden does more than just increase pest populations.

It also allows blight, mildew, and other diseases that affect plants an opportunity to find a permanent home.

Last but certainly not least, allowing old plants to overwinter means their rotting and decaying fruit and vegetables hang around too.

tomato blight
Plants that have disease or blight should be removed from the garden immediately. If not, the spores and disease can spread even faster for next year’s plants.

Rotting fruit not only encourages even larger pests like raccoon, skunks and deer to get used to visiting your garden, it also plants hundreds of their seeds into the ground.

Seeds that then germinate next season and compete for plant’s nutrients.

It’s easy to see why clearing the garden should always be a top priority when it comes to fall garden tasks!

Fall Garden Task #2 – Providing Protection And Nutrients For The Soil

So now everything is cleared out, it’s time to protect and recharge that precious garden soil.

And when it comes to this second fall garden task, both can easily be done at the same time.

covering the garden with leaves - fall garden tasks
A thick coat of leaves will help protect garden soil from erosion, and from weed seeds blowing in. They can also help re-energize the soil when mulched in the following spring.

Once a garden has been cleared of it’s foliage, the soil needs to be covered. Either with an organic mulch such as leaves or straw, or by planting a re-energizing cover crop.

Using Leaves To Cover Garden Soil

A thick 4 to 6″ layer of leaves is a great choice to cover open garden soil for the winter. The leaves keep weed seeds from finding bare soil, and keep erosion at bay.

Planting A Cover Crop

The best way of all to both protect and re-energize your garden soil in the fall is with a cover crop. ( See Planting A Fall Cover Crop In The Garden)

cover crop
We use a cover crop of annual rye seed to protect our growing rows from winter erosion, and to add nutrients back to the soil.

A cover crop grows thick to protect the soil from erosion. All while crowding out existing weeds and new weeds seeds from finding a home.

But best of all, it re-energizes the garden by giving it’s nutrients back to the soil.

We have been using a cover crop of annual rye in our garden now for the last 8 years, and with each passing year, the soil becomes more fertile, more productive, and easier to work. (See : How To Plant An Annual Rye Cover Crop)

But one thing is sure when it comes to this fall garden task – whatever you do, whether with leaves, straw, a cover crop – or even a tarp – cover that garden to protect it!

record setting harvest
Healthy soil leads to healthy harvests – like this tomato harvest from the garden in 2018

Here is to putting your garden to bed with a few great fall garden tasks. And to a healthier and better garden next year.

Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary.

Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. The two are frequent speakers on all things gardening and love to travel in their spare time.

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