20 Fall Garden Cleanup Must-Dos (For the BEST Spring Garden EVER)

Are you interested in Fall Garden Cleanup, but don’t know where to start?

Do you think Fall Cleanup will take too much time, effort, and energy?

And do you want a Better Spring Garden next year?

fall garden cleanup

If you answered YES to any of the above questions then continue reading!

After years of gardening and fall garden cleanup I have created the Ultimate Fall Garden Cleanup Checklist.

These are quick & easy, & best of all will give you the BEST Spring Garden EVER!


MUST-DO Annual Fall Garden Cleanup Tasks (#1-5)

fall garden cleanup

#1. Clean Out Your Garden THIS Way!

garden cleanup

After the first frost of the year you should begin cleaning out your garden. This is one of the easiest fall garden cleanup tasks.

This includes:

  • Removing all garden tools like stakes, trellises, and netting. This will increase the life of these tools.
  • Remove all dead annual flowers, vegetables, herbs, etc.

This is a great tip for any gardener, but is especially effective when you grow annual plants that don’t come back every year.

#2. Don’t Forget Winter Composting!

fall garden cleanup winter compost

After the first frost of the year, it is important to begin winter composting to create valuable compost nutrients for your spring garden.

You should only add healthy, dead plants to your composter.

Some examples include dead vegetables, herbs, flowers, fall leaves, and even grass cuttings. You should also use a compost and not a compost pile.

#3. Add Compost Into Your Garden THIS Way!

fall garden cleanup compost

Composting is another important fall garden cleanup task.

Next, you should add a thick layer of 2-3 inches of compost across your garden.

This will help enrich your soil for the BEST Spring Garden Ever.

This is also a great tip that you can begin doing this garden task as early as spring and throughout the entire gardening season.

#4. Till Your Garden in the Fall

Husqvarna, Tiller,

This is my favorite gardening hack for fall garden cleanup, but one of the least used gardening tips.

Every fall you should cultivate your garden. By tilling your garden you mix compost and valuable nutrients into the ground for a better spring garden.

Watch the below video to learn how to properly cultivate your garden:

#5. Plant Cover Crops

fall garden cleanup cover crop

Another Gardening Trick most beginner gardeners forget to do during fall garden cleanup is to plant cover crops.

I recommend using winter wheat, mustard, or clover to help prevent weeds over winter.

Not only that but this will your garden to replenish nutrients into winter and be ready for spring!

Perennial Fall Garden Cleanup Tasks (#6-9)

perennial fall garden cleanup

#6. Clean Out Harmful Weeds & Debris

weeding fall garden cleanup

Perennial Fall Garden Cleanup is much different than annual garden cleanup.

Because perennial bulbs will need to be planted before the first frost, you should begin this about 1 month before the last frost.

You should do the following:

  • Remove all weeds and dispose of them. Do NOT Compost
  • Add mulch around areas where weeds were
  • Spray with a weed killer when needed (if weeds come back)

#7. Plant Perennial Bulbs Close Together

perennial bulbs

You should plant any of your spring perennial flowers, berries, fruits, or herbs in the fall. Do this 2-4 weeks before the first frost.

Make sure to plant your perennial bulbs close together to have beautiful blooms throughout your yard and garden.

This will also help you r garden design still look correct if any of your bulbs do not make it through the winter.

#8. Don’t Forget to Add Compost!

adding compost fall garden cleanup

Just like for your annual garden, this is a critical fall garden cleanup for perennial gardens.

Next, you should add a thick layer of 2-3 inches of compost across your garden.

Do not worry about tilling this in like you would for an annual garden. The rain will help soak the compost into the perennial garden over time.

Make sure that you do this step every single year to ensure you have the best garden ever.

#9. Don’t Forget to Mulch


Add a thick layer of about 6 inches of mulch around the base of your garden and throughout the perennial garden.

You should also add mulch around any new shrub, tree, or plant that may need protection against winter snow, wind, or freezing temperatures.

This will help ensure that your garden looks beautiful in the spring and will minimize the amount of new mulch needed in your spring garden.

ALWAYS Do THESE Tree & Shrub Fall Garden Cleanup & Prep (#10-13)

fall tree

#10. Prune SOME Trees


A less common fall garden cleanup tip involves pruning trees.

While most trees should be pruned in early spring immediately after the last frost of the year, others can be pruned in the fall.

You should prune your trees and shrubs after the first frost once all the leaves have fallen off the trees.

Also, make sure to add a pruning sealer to help prevent disease and insects from attacking your trees.

#11. Plant NEW Trees & Shrubs

plant trees

Approximately one month prior to the first frost you should plant new trees and shrubs.

This is the best time for new trees to grow.

They will not experience drought. They go dormant. And they come back stronger next year.

#12. Mulch Around ALL Trees & Shrubs

mulch around tree

Just like you do for perennial plants, you should mulch around the base of all trees and shrubs.

This is especially important for new trees and shrubs to protect them from freezing temperatures, spring insects, high winds, and pests!

There is also nothing wrong with mulcing around flowers, berry bushes, and herbs that are perennial.

#13. Providing Water is a MUST

water plants

After mulching around your trees and shrubs, you should provide extra water right before the first frost.

This will allow your plants to better tolerate harsh winters.

Make sure to water at the base of your plant and not on the leaves. This will prevent evaporation and effectively reach the roots of your plant.

MUST-DO Fall Lawn Care & Cleanup Tasks (#14-17)

fall yard cleanup

#14. Rake & Compost Fallen Leaves

rake leaves

Always rake your leaves before the winter occurs.

Leaves left during winter can potentially cause your grass or garden to die.

Not only this, but you should compost your fallen leaves. This will help provide valuable nutrients back into the soil.

#15. Remove & Kill Harmful Weeds

kill weeds

As temperatures cool weeds will begin to grow more rapidly.

You should properly remove all weeds from your yard.

Also, do not be afraid to use a weed killer to prevent and destroy weeds.

When diposing your your weeds do not add them into a compost.

#16. Try Aerating Your Lawn

aerate lawn

Another fall yard care and cleanup tip you should do at least every other year is aerating your lawn.

This will loosen your soil allowing water to soak into your yard and drain more effectively.

This will also allow your grass to grow the best way possible.

#17. Grow New Grass Seed

grass seed

Cool-weather, rain showers, and little wind makes it the perfect time to grow grass.

Shaded Grass seed is the perfect type of seed to plant for grass to come up in the fall and really blossom in the spring.

Garden Tools Fall Care (#18-20)

#18. Clean ALL Garden Tools

cleaning garden tools

If you want your tools to be ready for spring gardening and last forever then it’s important to clean your gardening tools.

This means cleaning gardening containers and gardening pots.

It also means removing dirt from your tools and gently washing them with dish soap and immediately drying them.

#19. Sharpen your Tools

sharpen garden tool

Pruning Shears and Gardening Loppers aren’t the only tools that can dull after one season. Shovels, Axes, and spades also will need sharpening.

Sharpening tools can increase the life of your tool and make them more useful when using them.

If you want instructions on how to sharpen your tools then watch the video below:

#20. Prepare Engines for Winter

changing oil

Make sure that you store your lawn mowers, tillers, and other small engine gardening machines in a dry place like a shed.

Also, make sure that you drain the gas behind you store your machines in the winter. And make sure to change oil before winter.

If you forget to do these steps it may affect the ability of your gardening machines from running.

Bonus: What NOT to Do During Fall Garden Cleanup!!!

butterflies on flower

#1. Take Down Bird Feeders

Little more than a decade ago, gardeners and bird enthusiasts use to take down their bird feeders before every winter.

What is recommended now though is to leave your bird feeders up all winter.

Not only will this help feed native birds, but will help get pollinators in your yard and garden as long as possible before winter.

#2. Remove ALL Garden Debris

By removing all bark, hollow stems, and ornamental grass you take away valuable winter habitat for native bees.

By taking away this habitat you are decreasing the chances of bees coming back to pollinate your spring garden.

#3. Deadheading Perennials Too Early

You may want to deadhead your perennials at the first sign of them begin dying.

You shouldn’t though.

Butterflies and hummingbirds can visit coneflowers, daisies, black-eyed susans, and most perennials well into early winter.

By deadheading these flowers too early you discourage pollinators from visiting your garden throughout the fall.

#4. Spend ALL Your Time Cleaning

Another common garden cleanup you shouldn’t do is spend all your time in your yard.

Cleaning up your garden and yard does not guarantee spring success and can take up a lot of valuable time you can do other things with.

Make sure you enjoy the autumn weather, leaves, friends, and family.

#5. Keeping Your Yard Clean Throughout Winter

Another common mistake gardeners make is keeping your yard clean throughout the winter.

Let mother nature take its course.

Let snow accumulate, debris gather, and your plants harden. This will allow you to have the best flower garden, herb garden, vegetable garden, and fruit gardens.

Fall Garden Cleanup Summary

As a reminder, Fall Garden Cleanup is essential for the BEST spring and summer garden ever.

There are many benefits to fall garden cleanup, including adding nutrients into your soil, providing valuable habitat to pollinators, and keeping your garden clean and beautiful.

As a reminder, there are 20 MUST-DO Fall Garden Cleanups and this includes:

  • Clean Out Your Garden
  • Winter Compost
  • Add Compost to Annual Gardens
  • Cultivate Your Garden
  • Plant Cover Crops
  • Clean Harmful Weeds & Debris
  • Plant Perennial Bulbs Close Together
  • Add Compost Layers to your Perennial Garden
  • Don’t Forget to Mulch
  • Prune SOME Trees
  • Plant New Trees & Shrubs
  • Mulch Around ALL Trees
  • Provide Extra Water
  • Rake & Compost Fallen Leaves
  • Kill Harmful Weeds
  • Aerate Your Lawn
  • Grow New Grass Seed
  • Clean ALL Garden Tools
  • Sharpen Your Gardening Tools
  • Prepare Engines for Winter

And Remember Never:

  • Take Down Bird Feeders & Hummingbird Feeders
  • Remove ALL Garden Debris
  • Deadheading Perennials Too Early
  • Spend ALL Your Time Cleaning
  • Keeping Your Yard Clean Throughout Winter

And if you enjoyed this article and don’t want to make gardening mistakes this gardening season then I recommend reading Common Gardening Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

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