Fall is not just teasing us anymore, the cooler temperatures have officially arrived! It’s time to think about saying “goodnight, garden,” and putting the plants to bed for a winter nap. Any plant has a better chance with some winter protection, but fall-planted perennials really benefit from extra help.

Here’s a basic run down of how to get your gardens ready for winter and next spring. 2018 starts now!

Preparing the Perennials


Fall is a good time to thin the herd by dividing certain perennials.

  • Astilbe (use a hand saw)
  • Asiatic lily
  • Oriental lily
  • Hosta
  • Lily of the valley
  • Veronica
  • Peony (use a hand saw)
  • Siberian and Japanese iris


Many perennials can be cut back in the fall, to about three inches above the ground.

  • Delphinium
  • Columbine
  • Hollyhock
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bee Balm
  • Heliopsis
  • Peony
  • Phlox
  • Coreopsis
  • Geranium
  • Hosta (it can get slimy in the spring)
  • Any diseased plants or those that don’t offer winter interest

Leave Alone

Not all perennials need division or pruning. Some provide visual interest throughout the winter and provide food for birds. In spring, cut back dead foliage.

  • Bergenia
  • Huechera
  • Yarrow
  • Aster
  • Geum
  • Gaillardia
  • Penstemon
  • Salvia
  • Tiarella


Keep using repellants on shrubs to protect from deer. Treat soil at base of plants prone to powdery mildew, black spot, or other fungus. Plants susceptible to fungus include roses, peonies, monarda, joe pye weed.


  • Cover with straw, marsh hay or fallen leaves to a depth of 6 inches to 1 foot
  • Cover after the ground freezes, usually around mid to late November
  • Protects ground from the freeze/thaw and plants from crown damage
  • Rodents are less likely to nest if you wait to apply

Preparing the Veggie Garden

  • Clean your garden beds of debris and weeds
  • Top dress with nutrient rich organic matter, then till-in or double dig
  • Worm Castings – Contain 60 micronutrients and trace minerals, also adds live beneficial bacteria
  • Premium compost – Used by Certified Organic Growers to improve soil structure and add nutrients
  • Manure – Adds nutrients that slowly release into the soil over the winter months

Tree and Shrub Care

  • Wrap or cover plants with burlap
    • Helps prevent winter burn
    • Allows moisture and some sunlight in, but helps break the damaging winds
    • Heavy snow and ice will not sit on the branches causing them to break or lose their shape
    • Best time is November when the ground is freezing
  • Tree Trunk Wrapping
    • Prevents sunscald and frost cracks
    • Discourages mice and rabbits from chewing on the bark (may need a repellent also)
    • Remove tree wrap in early April
  • Create Wind Barriers
    • Helps prevent moisture loss from drying, harsh winds
    • Lessens “splash” from road salt
  • Anti-desiccant spray (Bonide’s Wilt Stop)
    • Spray coats evergreen’s leaves to help prevent moisture loss
    • Apply on a warm day in late fall when daytime temps are in the 50’s and nighttime temps are freezing
    • Coating slowly breaks down over winter

Remember the Bees and the Birds

Leave stems for bees:

  • Echinacea
  • Rudbeckia
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Hibiscus
  • Anything that makes a hollow stem
  • Cut 15 inches from the ground

Leave seed heads for birds:

  • Asters
  • Echinacea
  • Goldenrod
  • Rudbeckia
  • Globe Thistle
  • Coreopsis
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Sedum
  • Cup plant, Compass plant
  • Even sunflowers and zinnias!

Have fun and relax! This is the most important part. Be sure to enjoy these beautiful fall days, play in the leaves, decorate with pumpkins and gourds, and enjoy the rich colors of the flowers as they turn deeper shades in the cooler weather.