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COLUMN: Fall for gardening — Transform your yard into an oasis of rich vegetables and lush blooms that shine throughout the 2023 season

Tenille Millo, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 9/16/22

Contrary to popular belief, fall is less about raking and more about reaping the rewards embedded in its rich soil.

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COLUMN: Fall for gardening — Transform your yard into an oasis of rich vegetables and lush blooms that shine throughout the 2023 season


Contrary to popular belief, fall is less about raking and more about reaping the rewards embedded in its rich soil. With a sprinkle of rain and a touch of sunshine, the autumn earth transforms into a tranquil oasis ideal for hungry, tired roots. Here to show you how to dig into its prosperous cultivation is Holly Wise, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Horticulture Educator, with a few blooming facts.

Take stock

Before you begin your autumn plan, Wise advises you to take a walk around your yard and garden to note what thrived, what died, and what simply captured your interest. Similar to spring cleaning, an assessment of your summer plantings can reveal which perennials need to be moved to a more shady or sunny location, what areas of your lawn and landscape could use a bit of attention, and what vegetables need to be harvested.


Autumn is the perfect time to clean up flower and garden beds, manage soils, prepare sod, and minimize problems in the new growing season. It’s also the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, and pull out annuals once the frost has hit them. For fall color, Wise suggests adding hardier flowers, like mums or asters, that are designed to withstand colder temperatures and moisture.

Planting shrubs for privacy or landscaping in early fall is ideal because the moist soil allows roots to anchor down without the risk of drought or high temperatures. According to Wise, people should cut their perennials after the first frost, leaving about three inches above the ground. Make sure to dispose of all fungal, diseased perennial leaves and only add disease-free leaves to your compost piles.

Divide and propagate

Dividing perennials in the early fall gives way to proper production, growth, and visual enjoyment for the years to come. Wise suggests digging up vigorous perennials, like hostas and lilies, and dividing them to prevent overgrowth.

To help split root systems with ease, Wise recommends watering the base of the plants the day before you uproot them. Once you can view the root clump, cut through it with a knife, or gardening tool, from the crown down. Make sure to allow the cuttings to dry before replanting them, or share them with a friend, and water them once they are back in the dirt.

Rake, shred, and mulch

While we’re not covering fall’s notorious leaf raking, we are addressing fall’s beautiful deciduous trees, which add natural mulch to yards. If you’re pushing a few of your plants beyond their hardiness zone, pile these shredded leaves or evergreen boughs on top of their soil to help them survive through winter.

Test your soil

Fall is an ideal time to test your soil. Wise suggests retrieving a few soil samples from your garden bed and having their pH levels tested at Cornell Cooperative Extension, for a $2 charge. In addition, Cornell Cooperative Extension offers nutrient analysis, which gives recommendations for restoring and mending nutrients for a hardier planting season.


When planning your garden, choose plant combinations in terms of color, shape, texture, and light to create an autumn vibe. Consider opting for warm-toned flowers, like chrysanthemums, blanket flowers, or coreopsis, to play off the varying leaf colors, or add a palette of soft unexpected colors like tan, mauve, and lavender by planting chrysanthemums, heathers, stonecrops, and purple coneflowers. The good thing about fall planting is the remarkable deals that nurseries and garden centers offer. Plants are often discounted by 75%, making this the ideal time to design on a budget. Consider visiting the aisles to plan your design around what’s in store.


Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, radishes, spinach, garlic, kale, and lettuce thrive in the cooler season. Wise suggests planting these items before the temperature begins to dip to keep your vegetable crispers stocked until the end of October or early November. If you’re looking to extend your growing season past the first frost, cover your garden soil with a tarp, straw, or even a blanket when frost is in the forecast.


Fall prep is a maintenance chore that guarantees a beautiful and bountiful garden next season. If you have brown or patchy spots on your lawn, check for grubs. These white, C-shaped creatures are known to eat away at lawns and lay eggs in fall soil. Treat your lawn with grub control to prevent further damage over the 2023 season.

This is also the best time to reseed your lawn and add compost to flower beds and gardens. Compost rich in nutrients and biological matter can be purchased from Oneida Herkimer Waste Authority and area nurseries.

By planning a lovely autumn landscape, you can brighten your days and give yourself and your neighbors something to look forward to during the winter.


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