Grand Forks businesses weigh in: Fall garden work reaps rewards in the spring

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Fall is a good time for garden clean-up. Although it may not be as fun taking the trash out of the garden in the fall as it was planting flowers and vegetables last spring, it will pay off when the growing season begins anew.

Anything left in the vegetable garden that looks diseased should be removed and thrown in the trash, said Georgia Heitmann, who owns All Seasons Garden Center with her husband, Dieter. Typically, tomatoes and vine crops such as squash and cucumbers get powdery mildew, a plant disease, late in the season and should be discarded.

“They should go in your garbage,” Heitmann said.

After the vegetable garden foliage is removed, it’s a good idea to till the soil. Then in the spring, gardeners can add peat moss and till the soil again.

“You can never add too much peat moss,” she said.


While vegetable foliage should be removed, winter-hardy crops like carrots and parsnips can remain in the ground over winter. Those crops can be insulated with straw and dug in the spring.

Any perennial plants purchased by homeowners can be taken out of their containers in the fall and planted in the ground. Planting in the fall ensures the perennials will be well-rooted in the spring, Heitmann said.

Annual flowers in containers can be moved into the house in the fall. Before bringing inside, though, the flowers should be brought into the garage and sprayed thoroughly with an insecticide, Heitmann said.

Foliage of perennial flowers, such as delphiniums, columbines and peonies, which often gets diseased, should be removed from the garden in the fall, she said. However, foliage of other perennials may be left in the garden so it catches snow and insulates the plants. That helps protect them during winter freezing-thawing cycles.

Ornamental grasses that add interest to the garden can be left until spring, when they should be cut to a level of about 2 inches, Heitmann said.

Vegetable and flower garden foliage that is not diseased can be put in a compost bin and saved until the following spring, when it can be tilled into the garden, said Angela Lorentz, Tim Shea’s Nursery and Landscaping greenhouse manager.

Gardeners also can dig up and plant in containers various annuals, such as geraniums. The geraniums can either be brought into the house and treated as houseplants, or put in a location such as a heated garage. Geraniums in either location can be planted outdoors again in the spring, she said.

The soil that’s left in containers after plants are removed should be thrown away, Lorentz said.


“There are not a lot of nutrients in it,” she said.

Fall also is a good time to do lawn care, said Sarah Krogfoss, Tim Shea’s landscape designer.

Lawns can be overseeded, sprayed and fertilized, she noted.

Meanwhile, homeowners who are mowing their lawns for the last time of the year should raise the deck of their mowers, Krogfoss said.

Lawns also can be aerated in the fall, Heitmann said. In late fall, homeowners also can dormant seed grass, she said. The grass should be seeded in early November so it doesn’t germinate.

“It will come up lovely in the spring,” Heitmann said.

Besides tending to the lawn and flowers, gardeners can trim shrubs in the fall, she said. The exception to that are shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, which flower in the spring.

Meanwhile, plants such as “Endless Summer” hydrangeas and tea roses, which are marginally hardy for northern climates, should be covered with a layer of mulch in the fall, Krogfoss said.


Fall also is an optimal time to divide and move plants to another location, she said.

“Fall is an excellent time for planting because it’s cool out,” she said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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