There’s an obvious nip of dropping in the breeze, and to some, the nip signals the end of the golf season or maybe hiking season, but to the gardener, it’s a spring ready signal. In the fall, something you do or don’t do will affect your spring garden directly. Pests and diseases are in the soil and plant debris, and if you want a safe start to your spring garden, you have to put your fall garden to bed properly. You’ll get there thirteen simple steps.

Cut the perennials and cover them. Cut perennials in a few inches from the ground as they die back, clean the garden and eliminate any pests and diseases, taking care to eradicate any diseased plant material. Divide and replant overgrown clumps of perennials while the soil is still warm to enhance the perennials ‘ health and appearance.

Drop annual spent and seasonal vegetables. Annuals and most vegetables do not return every year, so you’re expected to pull them up, roots and everything.

Take away weeds and leaf debris. Rake and collect leaves not only from under shrubs in the garden and out, but also on the lawn. A thick layer of leaves serves as insulation and can encourage diseases such as snow molds. Use the leaves as a mulch in or compost your garden beds. Leaves are a great source of organic matter, which could be used more by all soils in this area.

Just Compost healthy material. Dispose of plant material that is diseased. When composting, ensure that your pile reaches temperatures above 140 degrees F to combat diseases and weed seed. To help your battery reach these temperatures, increase your battery with coffee grounds, beer mash, or untreated lawn clippings, and make sure you frequently water and turn your battery. Composting is a great way to reduce landfill waste, reduce water and fertilizer needs, and save you money.

Get a report of the soil. If you haven’t done so already, get a soil check to determine the soil’s pH, organic matter, and nutrient levels.

Adjust the soil. You may need to adjust the pH (acidity or alkalinity) once you get your soil test results. To increase the pH, apply lime and sulfur. Most of Colorado’s soils are alkaline.  In the fall, adding compost, manure, and other organic modifications helps them to break down and create good winter soil.

Add mulch. Perennial mulch beds and shrub beds. It preserves both plant and soil roots and improves the effects during winter freezes and thaws with significant moisture and temperature changes.

Secure trees and shrubs from plagues and high altitude sun. To avoid them from being scorched by the harsh winter sun or destroyed by small animals, cover the bark of newly planted trees.

Plant bulbs, shrubs and trees. Flowering bulbs like daffodils and crocuses in the plant spring. Mulch bulb beds with evergreen boughs to shield the winter soil from heaving. A perfect time to plant new shrubs and trees is the cool dropping temperatures.

Sow seeds of flowers and grass. Sow wildflower and grass seeds at temperatures below 40 degrees, but before freezing the ground.

Save seeds. Collect and save seeds. Avoid getting them wet and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until you are ready to sow in the spring.

Winterize containers, equipment and furniture for the garden. Clean and store outdoor planting and garden furniture. Garden tools clean and sharpen. When properly cleaned, tools and other supplies last longer, and it’s always nicer to start a new gardening season with supplies as anxious to get back into the dirt as you are.

Prepare irrigation for trees and shrubs. Winters in Colorado can be very difficult on trees and shrubs. If there is no snow cover and the weather is above 40 degrees F, make sure during the winter months you water trees and shrubs once a month. The extra moisture will help prevent drying out in our strong drying winds and extreme winter sunshine.