Fall is a great time to wind down the growing season with a little preventative maintenance for your yard and garden. The topic of fall cleanup is a matter of much debate among gardeners – some believe in keeping things tidy, while others prefer some organic clutter.

Whatever your style, a little fall housekeeping can go a long way in preventing disease and insect problems next year. So head outdoors on a sunny Saturday and take care of the following top 7 lawn and garden chores for our yard!

raking leaves
Fall cleanup helps prevent disease.

  1. General clean-up: To prevent problems next year, clean up garden debris and turn it into next year’s compost. Leaves and organic debris can harbor fungi, bacteria, and overwintering insects that will return with a vengeance next spring. Tree leaves can become matted and moldy, smothering the ground and the plants beneath them. Fallen branches can create safety traps for unsuspecting feet. Yet when added to the compost pile, these ingredients are transformed into the world’s best plant nourishment.

Gardening Tip

On the flip side, garden debris offers shelter and insect food for winter birds. If you like the birds, and you don’t have major problems with insects or diseases, leave some areas a little messy. Just keep watch each year to make sure buildup isn’t creating problems.

    1. Remove diseased material: If any of your plants or shrubs were diseased this year, be sure to rake up and discard all the fallen leaves – they’re contagious. Don’t compost them unless your compost pile can reach 160° F.
  1. Cut back perennials: After your perennials are killed by frost (not before!), cut back the dead stems of any that look messy. If the dried stems have a nice shape or interesting seed pods, you can leave them for winter interest and cut them back in the spring.

Trim back perennials after they’re killed back by frost.

    1. Prune dead branches: The only pruning that should be done in the fall is the removal of dead or diseased branches. Inspect your trees, shrubs, and woody perennials, and trim away any dead wood. Remove and discard any branches infected by disease or cankers. Remove branches damaged by storms since broken branches are more susceptible to disease. Save other pruning jobs for early spring or right after the plant blooms.
  1. Till vegetable garden: Many insects and larvae spend the winter underground. Tilling or plowing will expose them to the surface, where they will be eaten by birds or killed by freezing temperatures. Turning the soil also helps control harmful soil fungi and diseases. And just like turning a compost pile, tilling your garden soil will aerate and speed up the decomposition of organic matter, so incorporate shredded leaves, grass clippings, or manure into the soil for on-the-spot composting.

diseased branches
Remove diseased branches before the problem spreads.

    1. Add soil amendments: In a healthy yard or garden, many problems with diseases, insects, and weeds take care of themselves. A healthy garden starts with healthy soil, so take advantage of a nice sunny day to get your soil in shape for next year. Do a soil test to determine what amendments are needed, and try a little landscape lasagna to get your garden primed for next spring!
  1. Apply mulch: Apply mulch after the ground cools down for the season – the insulation will help your plants through the winter while still allowing them to go dormant.

mulch debris

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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