Tasks you can do in your late-autumn garden

bare trees and leaves on tree in autumn in Amherst New York
Although we’ve already had a couple feet of snow in Amherst, some leaves are still clinging tightly to the trees. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Yes, Western New York has seen winter weather already, but the calendar says it’s still autumn. With a few days of milder weather in the forecast, get outside and do those late-season tasks while you can.

Harvest herbs & cold weather veggies

If you have any herbs or cold-weather vegetables, such as parsley, onions and peas, still growing, don’t let them go to waste. Harvest them now while they’re not hidden under a blanket of snow. You can extend the season by covering them with leaves or using a grow tunnel.

Mulch perennials

Now is the time to mulch around your perennials to protect them against bitter winter temperatures and fluctuations in temperature. Leaves are great for this purpose.

Put away your breakables

I have a glass bird bath that I might have forgotten about. I noticed it only because it was filled with eight inches of snow.

Anything that’s breakable should be brought inside. The wind might knock these things down or a branch might fall on them. Ceramic pots can crack in the cold, especially if they fill with water and freeze. For next year, here’s a hint on how to keep pots from cracking in winter.

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.

Label your perennials

I already have one UP–Unidentified Plant. It’s in a pot, so I won’t pull it out thinking it’s a weed. (I actually did that once. Autumn Connie was sure she would remember what was in the pot, but spring Connie was convinced she never planted a perennial in that pot. Bye-bye butterfly flower.)

When you label your plants, use labels that will last throughout winter. If the ink washes off or the tag gets knocked over, it’s no help.

Pull weeds

If the ground where you are isn’t frozen yet, you can get a head start on spring by yanking out weeds now. The ground may be soft because of snow melt and rain, so keep to the paths and don’t step into your garden beds. Walking on soft ground can compact your soil.

Tidy up your shed or garage

You may look at this as an annoying chore, but when it’s warm and sunny out in spring, this task will be even less appealing. Organize your pots and tools. Place them where you’ll be able to find them again in spring.

Rake your leaves–or not

Leaves may have fallen onto your lawn during the recent storm, and there may be more leaves to come. In my neighborhood, there are still a few trees with leaves hanging on tight.

If you want to use the leaves in other areas of your landscape, for example, to build a path, add to your compost bin or protect perennials, go ahead and rake them up.

But if you don’t have a reason to move the leaves, just keep them where they are. Unless you have a thick mat of leaves, the leaves aren’t going to kill the grass. Bonus: You’re helping the environment! Many insects need leaf cover during winter, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

6 Comments on “Tasks you can do in your late-autumn garden

  1. Hi Carol, thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful. The weather hasn’t been mild the last few days, but maybe today we can get outside.

  2. This was a wonderful article. Thank so much for writing it. And the links are helpful.

  3. To k,

    You can use any size bottles that can easily fit into pots, and use multiples for larger pots, but you don’t need to use a lot of bottles for the purpose of preventing cracks. I would give at least 12-18 inch depth for soil for annuals, if the pot is for evergreen, then leave more soil to accommodate the size of the root ball.

  4. We use empty tonic bottles, the large ones on our big urns. We fill the urns about 1/3 and the layer newspaper so the getting soil doesn’t wash down. This works really well for our 6 urns. Good luck.

  5. Hu, what size drink bottles do you use? I imagine it depends on the size of the ceramic pot, but should the bottle take up most of the space in the pot? do you fill the bottle with soil, when you put soil in the pot?
    Thanks for the tip!

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