8 gardening tasks you can do in late autumn

red leaf with frost by Stofko
We’ve had frost and snow, but there are still gardening tasks you can do now. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Even though we got a taste of winter weather, it’s still autumn in Western New York. And there are still gardening things you can do!

Bring in & store tender bulbs

How should you care for bulbs of plants such as dahlias and canna lilies?

Dig up the bulbs after the first killing frost, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

By now, most, if not all, of Western New York has had a killing frost, so get out there soon.

Farfaglia recommended these instructions for storing bulbs from Dr. Leonard Perry, extension professor at the University of Vermont. It’s a good summary of the best practices for storing tender bulbs and covers a variety of bulbs, including elephant ears.

Hurry and plant spring bulbs

If you have bulbs for spring-flowering plants, make sure you plant them before the ground freezes. These are flowers such as crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips.

Harvest herbs and cold weather veggies

Don’t forget to harvest any herbs or cold-weather vegetables you have growing, such as parsley, onions and peas. You can extend the season by covering them with leaves or using a grow tunnel.

Put away your breakables

Anything that’s breakable, such as glass garden ornaments, ceramic bird baths or ceramic pots, should be brought inside. There is a chance that wind might topple some of these delicate items or a branch might fall on them. They can crack in the cold, and if they hold water, they can crack when the water in them freezes and expands.

Bring in rain barrels, plastic fountains & hoses

Even plastic can crack if a container fills up with water and freezes. That’s why you can’t leave your rain barrel hooked up all winter. If you don’t have room for a big rain barrel in your garage or shed, tip the barrel on its side.

Plastic wall-hanging fountains can crack, too, so empty those and bring them inside.

Your hoses can crack, too, if they’re filled with water. You might want to bring those in.

Pull weeds

The ground isn’t frozen in my neighborhood, and with the rain we have gotten lately, the soil is soft. It’s a great time to pull weeds.

Be careful when you pull weeds that are full of seeds; you don’t want to scatter those seeds everywhere. Don’t compost weeds that have seeds on them– when you spread your compost, the seeds can sprout and you’ll have a garden full of weeds.

Label your perennials

You may be able to recognize all of your perennials now, but next spring, they will be little sprouts. Will you be able to tell a perennial from a weed? Make sure you carefully label your plants.

Clean out your garage or shed

This isn’t a fun task, but it’s not going to get any more appealing when the weather is colder.

Organize your pots and tools. Clean your tools and get them sharpened. Set your rakes to the back and pull your snow shovels up front.

Take building materials and other items you no longer need to places like Reuse Action and Habitat Buffalo’s ReStore.

4 Comments on “8 gardening tasks you can do in late autumn

  1. For California gardeners usda zone 8-9: do I have to dig up my tulip bulbs every year and store them in the frig? Or if I leave them in the ground will they bloom again.? We don’t get frost and temps only go to mid 40s as the coolest.

  2. Hi Karen, there seem to be many ways to overwinter dahlias. Before I contacted John Farfaglia, I had found information from Cornell Cooperation Extension in Monroe County. They say you should store dahlias in soil and keep them slightly moist. See that sheet here. Give it a try and see how it works.

  3. I’ve been successfully wintering spikes in the garage, in pots, watering rarely, good sun, cool temps. Can I winter the dahlias this way too?

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