Fall Clean-up Checklist

outdoors in autumn with leaves on the ground in shades of yellows, reds and oranges
  • Remove layers of leaves – leaf litter has its benefits, providing shelter for beneficial insects and breaking down to organic matter for the soil in spring, but heavy layer of leaves can trap moisture, block sunlight, and encourage disease for the plants underneath. Extra leaves can be composted. 
  • Save annual seeds and pull annuals– When seedheads turn brown and ripen, it is time to collect seeds for next year. Many annual flowers don’t need to be repurchased every year, the seeds can be held over and started in late winter or spring. Make sure to label the storage containers, and check to see if seeds need a chilling period before planting.
  • Cut back perennials– Remove foliage that had disease problems like powdery mildew and black spot. Don’t compost diseased material. Other plants don’t need to be cutback, and some plants provide good structure in winter, but it reduces the amount of work that needs to be done in spring.
  • Prepare young shrubs and trees for winter – Rabbits and deer often damage plants during winter when food is scarce. Young trees and shrubs have soft bark and are often preferred for browsing, so protect your new plantings for 2-3 years until they start to mature. You may want to protect some plants every year, depending on how many browsers you get.
  • Clean your tools – When your fall clean-up is complete, remember to clean and oil your tools, sharpen your shovels, and drain the water from your hose and the gas out of your small engines. This will prolong the life of your tools.

Prepared by Lindsey Smith, Collections Curator