Skip to content

Fall Gardening IdeasMaster Gardener Scoop – November 9, 2016

Master Gardener Scoop.pdf

By Will Summers and Linda Summers, Master Gardeners

For most of Southern Illinois, we have reached the first of November without our first killing frost. This brief period between the end of the growing season and the beginning of harsh winter brings opportunities not available in other seasons. These days are comfortable to be outside. Here is a checklist of ideas to consider.


#1 Most trees and shrubs survive best when fall planted. This excludes fruit trees and conifers (evergreen) trees. Take advantage of purchasing these at bargain prices as some stores are freeing up space for Christmas trees and decorations. Woody perennials get an added boost in over-wintering in the soil and are ready to start growth next spring. Keep in mind that these newly-planted items may need extra water during brief periods without adequate precipitation.

#2 Plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus now. You will realize the benefit next spring when these beauties appear. Also, it is not too late to dig and divide flowering perennials such as daylilies and peonies.

#3 There is still time to dig your sensitive bulbs such as cannas and dahlias. Shake to remove all soil and allow to surface dry before storage in a cool/dry place.

#4 Bring indoors all sensitive porch plants. Prune back and place in a cool, but sunny, indoor location.

#5 Add peat moss to your garden, especially if it has a lot of clay soil. Peat breaks down slowly and makes future tillage easier.


#6 Spread your leaves on to your garden before turning it over for the spring. Use the trench method of tilling by first digging a trench, filling it with leaves, then turning over soil next to it creating a new trench, then repeat the process. Small leaves from birch and maple work best. The mixture of leaves and soil will speed decomposition, and your garden will be ready to plant earlier in spring. Do not incorporate any garden residue or plants which may reinfect next year’s crop with plant diseases or insect pests.

#7 Mow your leaves into piles. Mowing speeds decomposition and allows you to get more leaves into a smaller space. Mowing leaves into your lawn allows you to return nutrients back into the soil.

#8 Mulch around trees to feed soil mycorrhizae through the winter.


#9 Cut back flowering perennials such as iris and peonies to prevent disease and improve the appearance of your garden.

#10 Remove any remaining weeds, especially those with seed heads.

#11 Pickup all down fruit, especially apples. Pick off any remaining fruit from the trees. Rotting fruit extends the life of harmful pathogens that will reinfect your trees next year and may attract damaging vermin.

#12 Perform one last lawn mowing. Lawn growth has slowed, and with the approach of winter, your lawn will look neater through the cold season with one last mowing. This is the time to do the best edging and trimming also.


#13 Clean and sanitize bird houses and bird feeders. Remove old nesting material and brush in a dilute bleach solution into all bird houses. Soak your bird feeders in this solution and scrub out any old seeds before beginning fall bird feeding. This will reduce likely disease infection and spread.

Home Maintenance:

#14 Clean and check rain gutters and downspouts. Make sure all rain gutters are devoid of leaves, twigs or other debris as the last of the leaves fall. Downspouts should be in good repair and direct all water away from your building foundation.

#15 Clean, sharpen, lubricate and store your summer gardening tools. Winterize your mower and have it ready for next season’s use. Store these so they are out of your way and in good shape until needed next year.

Please contact your local University of Illinois Master Gardener or your County Extension Office for more information regarding any of these items.

Master Gardener BW.jpg

Fall Gardening Ideas