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Gardener's checklist for fall

What to do in your garden in the fall



  • Reduce irrigation times as day length shortens and plant growth slows.
  • Compost disease-free annuals and vegetables that have finished producing.
  • Add two inches of compost to the top eight inches of soil for fall and winter vegetables and annuals.


  • Harvest vegetables promptly for continued production. 
  • Buy bedding plants for fall color, including annual cosmos, snapdragons and zinnias, and perennial asters, chrysanthemums and salvias.
  • Renovate your lawn by seeding bare spots, dethatching and fertilizing. Consider reducing your lawn area.
  • Divide overgrown perennials as they finish blooming. Before replanting them, weed and amend garden beds.
  • Plant ornamental grasses, shrubs, perennials, evergreens and groundcovers.
  • Transplant starts of cabbage and cauliflower. Plant artichoke rootstock.
  • Sow seeds of fava beans, leeks, peas, radish, spinach and turnips.
  • Harvest herbs and dry them for winter use. Make pesto with basil, cilantro or parsley and freeze in small batches.
  • Cut strawflowers, statice, yarrow and other flowers that preserve well. Hang them to dry for use in arrangements.
  • Collect your own seed and store in a cool, dry place, along with any leftover seed packets.
  • Shop for bulbs at local nurseries.

Feed & Fertilize

  • Feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons with a 0-10-10 fertilizer.
  • Give citrus their last feeding of the year. 



  • Reduce your irrigation times significantly as day length shortens and plant growth slows or stops.
  • Compost disease-free annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.
  • Clean up diseased and damaged plant materials so the pathogens don’t overwinter.
  • Remove dead roots, leaves and stems from your vegetable garden and pick up fallen fruit. Dispose of them in your green can.
  • Add compost and soil amendments to your garden; cultivate into soil, but don’t disturb shallow-rooted plants.
  • Visit your garden after dark with a flashlight and handpick snails and slugs. Control measures in fall will help reduce populations in spring.


  • Plant cover crops, like fava beans, crimson clover and vetch, to improve soil structure and fertility in bare vegetable beds.
  • Visit nurseries to see trees and shrubs with outstanding fall color; determine if there’s a place in your garden that would benefit from one of these selections.
  • Plant ornamental grasses, shrubs, perennials, evergreens and groundcovers. Winter rains will help establish sturdy root systems.
  • Buy bedding plants for fall and winter color, including calendulas, cyclamen, Iceland poppies, nemesia, osteopermum, pansies, primroses, snapdragons and violas.
  • Plant nursery starts of cool-season vegetables. In foggier microclimates: artichoke (rootstock), fava beans, cabbage, garlic, leeks, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, radish (small varieties), shallot sets. In sunnier microclimates: artichoke (rootstock), fava beans, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, garlic sets, leeks, peas, radish (small varieties), spinach, Swiss chard.
  • Reseed bare spots in your lawn or install sod. Consider reducing the size of your lawn or removing it entirely to conserve water.
  • Dig up corms and tubers of gladiolus, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies, if you’ve lost these plants over past winters. Store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Put tulip, narcissus and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator in breathable bags to pre-chill for six weeks prior to planting. Do not store them with apples, which emit ethylene gas that will sprout the bulbs.
  • Start amaryllis, narcissus and paperwhite narcissus bulbs inside for holiday gifts.
  • Prepare planting holes now for installing bare-root plants and trees in winter.



  • Mulch bare soil to hold in moisture, keep out weeds and prevent compaction by hard rains.
  • Prune dead or broken branches on trees and shrubs.
  • Remove the bands of corrugated cardboard used to trap codling moth larvae from around apple tree trunks and dispose of them.
  • Compost fallen leaves. Layer green and brown materials in your compost pile.
  • Create new planting areas by layering sheet mulch (click herefor a how-to video) over weed patches or unwanted lawn.
  • Turn off your irrigation system for the season; continue to water plants under overhangs.


  • Sow native wildflower seed.
  • Plant perennials and evergreens.
  • Dig, divide and replant overgrown perennials for more profuse blooms next spring.
  • Plant bulbs for spring color, including daffodils, crocus, freesia and hyacinths.
  • Plant garlic and shallot sets.
  • For larger camellia blooms, remove all but one fat bud from each stem.

Faith Brown, Elizabeth Finley, Dot Zanotti Ingels, Diane Lynch, Marie Narlock

A Gardener's Companion 2011 by the UCCE Placer County Master Gardeners, Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Peirce