Ask an Expert // Four Areas of Focus for Fall Yard Cleanup

fall yard cleanup.jpgThe weather is cooling off, but we’re not done with yardwork for the year. Here are a few tips on how to put your yard and garden to bed for the season.

Winter is just around the corner. After all of the relentless mowing, harvesting and canning, we can get a little burned out on yardwork. However, don’t give up yet. Fall is an important time to set the yard up for healthy plants next year. The lawn, vegetable garden, shade trees and perennial beds can be even more beautiful with proper fall maintenance. Consider these tips to keep up your gardening momentum.


1. Lawns

You have probably already noticed that the cooler weather has helped your lawn green back up after summer heat, and you are still mowing just as often, if not more. Starting in October, gradually lower your mower height each time you mow. The goal is to get the grass length to 1 ½ – 2 inches without scalping the lawn. Short grass does not matt under snow cover, and therefore is less susceptible to snow mold and other fungi. Consider mowing your fallen leaves without bagging them to add organic matter for a healthier lawn. If you have heavy thatch or compacted soil, consider core aerating your lawn this fall.

Fall is also one of the most important times for lawn fertilization and weed control. Applying high nitrogen, fast release fertilizer in November will give your lawn a great head start for next year. Fall and spring are the two times of year when herbicides are most effective. Weeds are already beginning to transport carbon to their roots for winter storage, making them more susceptible to herbicide treatment.


2. Vegetable Gardens

Now is the time to prepare your vegetable garden so you are ready to plant next spring. If you currently have a vegetable garden, the cleanup is very important. Sanitation is key to a healthy garden. Pull out or cut all your vegetable plants to the base. Remove all leaf debris or fallen fruits. You can compost your spent vegetable plants as long as they are not diseased. Weed removal is also very important. Insect pests often overwinter on several weed species. Keep the pests out by keeping the weeds out.

Vegetables need nutrient-rich, high-organic soil. Whether you are planning to start a vegetable garden for the first time or you are planning to plant again next spring, fall is a great time to add nutrients in the form of organic matter. Grass clippings, raked leaves, compost or manure are all things you can spread over your garden so it is ready for planting in the spring.

Spice up your garden with garlic, as it is one of the easiest, most rewarding vegetables to plant. Simply plant the bulbs in October, watch them come up in the spring, fertilize, water and you are ready to harvest in July. Enjoy cooking with garlic all winter long. If you save a handful of garlic cloves each year, you will have garlic forever.


3. Trees

All trees, especially evergreens and newly planted trees, should have one last deep watering before the snow flies. Evergreens continue to transpire during the wintertime, so it is important that they have access to deep moisture, especially when we have dry winters. You can run an open hose to your tree, periodically moving it every 15 minutes around the dripline. Alternatively, you can use a hose-attachable sprinkler head. Adjust it to cover the entire dripline of the tree, and let it run for a minimum of 40 minutes. Pruning is not ideal in the fall – it is best to wait until spring.


4. Perennial Beds

Most perennials need to be cut back to the ground in the fall. Of course, there are always the “stubborn” perennials that just keep blooming into November. By the time they are dormant, you are out cutting them back during snowfall. Luckily, not all perennials require cutting back in the fall. Hostas and Daylillies can be left for spring. The old foliage softens and slightly breaks down over the winter and can easily be pulled up by hand or with a rake in the spring. Ornamental grasses are also saved for an early spring chore. Though they may be cut back in the fall, ornamental grasses provide decorative value in the winter landscape as well as seeds and habitat for birds.

Cutting back perennials in the fall produces more debris than most compost bins can take. For small-scale composting, large plant debris must be chopped into 2 to 3-inch pieces or it will take an extra month or two to break down. Finely chopping spent perennials is a lot of work. A green waste bin is ideal. The easiest technique is to go through the perennial bed with a pair of sharpened hedge shears, cut everything at once, then rake the debris onto a pile.

If your perennial bed lacks early spring color, now is the time to plant spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth and allium. Any of these, mixed or in mass, will give you a long-lasting variety of spring color. Bulbs are generally planted three times deeper than their diameter; therefore, most bulbs will need to be planted between 5 and 7 inches deep.


Happy fall, and keep up the gardening momentum!

This article was written by Helen Muntz, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, 801-399-8204

Fall Bucket List


Cooler temperatures and colorful leaves are on their way. We’re welcoming fall with more than 50 fall things to do around Utah. Pick and choose your favorites to create your own custom fall bucket list. 

The weather is starting to cool off, the leaves are changing and there is so much fun to be had.  Utah is full of great experiences, whether you want to spend time out in the crisp fall air or stay home working on simple projects.  Whatever mood you are, in it is nice to have a list of exciting ideas to choose from, and we have more than 50 suggestions for you to build your own fall bucket list.


  • Drive the Alpine Loop or other local canyons to see the leaves
  • Explore a corn maze
  • Visit the local farmer’s market
  • Go on a hike to see the fall colors
  • Go camping in the colors
  • Go apple, pumpkin, squash, pepper or tomato picking at a local “pick your own” farm
  • Go pick your own pumpkin from a pumpkin patch
  • Practice recreational shooting
  • Go hunting
  • Go Trick-or-Treating
  • Tell scary stories around a campfire
  • Go on a hay ride
  • Join in a family and friend turkey bowl football game



  • Do fall cleaning
  • Decorate the house
  • Host a football watching party
  • Host a Halloween party
  • Gather family for Thanksgiving dinner
  • Rake up and play in the autumn leaves
  • Clean out garden beds to prepare for next year
  • Plant spring bulbs
  • Plant a tree — Autumn is a great time to plant a tree, but be sure to water well if it is a dry autumn.


  • Do a chili cook-off
  • Make apple cider
  • Harvest fall produce and preserve it by freezing, drying or canning (jams, jellies, whole fruit, etc.)
  • Throw a homemade doughnut party – invite friends and family over for fun and doughnuts everyone can enjoy. Try them  baked or fried.
  • Make caramel apples
  • Try a new recipe for Thanksgiving (pie, stuffing, etc.)
  • Throw a party where everyone brings a different kind of pie
  • Host a crock pot party
  • Try a new homemade soup, like  Apple & Butternut Squash Soup (page 7) to help keep you warm as the days get colder.


  • Pumpkin carving – A tradition that never gets old. Find your favorite printable template or draw freehand to make your pumpkin carving creation.
  • Decorate/paint pumpkins to look like a favorite book character – Painting and decorating pumpkins is just as fun. They also last longer without wilting.
  • Boo” ding dong ditch the neighbors – Leave a bag of goodies on someone’s front porch and run away – once you have been “boo-ed” you hang an image of a ghost near your front door so others know you have been “boo-ed.”
  • Start a fall gratitude journal
  • Create a new autumn decoration
  • Make a new Halloween costume
  • Sew homemade hand warmers


This is a way to transport yourself and your little ones into another world of fun, adventure and fantasy. Cuddle up with a blanket and enjoy some of these favorites this autumn.

  • Scary chapter books:
    • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
    • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    • Doll Bones by Holly Black
  • Halloween picture books:
    • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
    • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams
    • Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michal Rex
    • Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson
    • Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
    • In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
    • The Hallo-wiener by Dav Pilkey
    • Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
    • Frankenstein by Rick Walton and Nathan Hale
    • Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson and Samuel Thaler
    • A Very Brave Witch by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss
    • One Witch by Laura Leuck

    • Curious George Goes to a Costume Party by Margaret Rey
    • Where is Baby’s Pumpkin? by Karen Katz
  • Thanksgiving picture books:
    • ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
    • Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano
    • The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz
    • A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman and Jeff Shelly


This article was written by Kirsten Lamplugh, Intern at the Salt Lake County USU Extension office, BS in Family and Consumer Sciences 

Ask an Expert // Five Fall Must-Do Yard Tasks


With autumn here, it’s time to think about getting the yard ready for winter. Consider the following tasks that will help your yard be healthy and happy next spring.


  1. Remove leaves by raking, mowing or vacuuming with a leaf blower. Mowing and vacuuming chop up leaves and reduce the bulk so more fits into leaf bags or compost piles. The reduced bulk also makes it easier to mix leaves into the soil. Do not send them to the landfill, as they are valuable for improving the soil and easy to compost. Instead, send them to green waste or check with neighbors who might be able to use them.
  1. Early to mid-fall is a great time to spray lawn weeds such as dandelions and harder-to-kill perennial weeds such as field bindweed (morning glory). There are many products that are registered for spraying on the lawn, but if you need to spray in the garden, avoid contamination by making sure all produce is removed and you are done for the year. As always, read and follow all product labels.
  1. Just after the first hard frost is the best time to cut back annuals and perennials. Foliage will be scorched and yellow or brown. Cut perennials a few inches above the ground and do the same with annuals, or pull them out completely. If the removed foliage is not diseased, compost it or send it to green waste. If it is diseased, throw it away. This is also a good time to apply 1-3 inches of compost to flowerbeds. If there is risk of damage to existing plant roots, the compost does not need to be tilled in.
  1. The final lawn mowing should occur between late October and early November. Lower the mowing height to around 2 inches. This helps slow the spread of winter-active fungal diseases such as snow mold. It is also important to remove all leaf litter from the lawn.
  1. If the lawn had moderate-to-heavy traffic during the summer, fall is a great time to fertilize. The lawn stores nutrients and will break dormancy sooner in the spring. There are many standard and organic fertilizer options available. Follow the instructions on the bag.


One thing you should not do in the fall is heavy pruning of woody plants. Pruning delays dormancy and can make these much more susceptible to winter damage. Instead, between mid and late winter is a much better time to prune ornamental trees. Prune most flowering and fruit-bearing trees in late winter or early spring. If shrubs do not flower or they flower in the summer, prune in late winter. Spring flowering shrubs such as snowball bush, bridal wreath, lilac, etc., should be pruned as soon as they are done blooming in the spring.

This article was written by Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, 801-851-8460, taun.beddes@usu.edu

Ask an Expert // Putting Your Yard and Garden to Bed for the Winter

Putting the Garden to bed.jpg

Autumn is here! Find out what you can do to get your garden ready for winter

As the weather begins to change, it is time to start thinking about fall yard care, and horticulturist Katie Wagner has some great tips on how to put your yard and garden to bed for winter on the USU Extension YouTube channel.



Lawn care:

  • After your lawn has stopped growing, mow it to 1 – 1 ½ inches.
  • Mow the leaves right into the grass to act as a mulch and compost back into the lawn.
  • Do a late-season fertilization after grass has stopped growing but before it turns brown.

In the garden:

  • Remove plants after they stop producing. Do not till them into the soil to prevent possible disease in next year’s garden.
  • Amend the soil. If you use animal manure compost, winter snow will help wash away any salt before the next growing season.


  • Take advantage of season-end sales on woody trees and shrubs; they will take root more easily in the cooler weather than in the heat of summer.
  • Mulch around the base of rose bushes.

Do you have yard and garden questions? Check out http://extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/, or call your local Extension office to talk to an expert.

Top 10 // Tips for Winterizing Your Garden

Fall Garden

Follow these tips to winterize your garden!

Turn Down for What?

It has most definitely been a long and rewarding gardening season. Many delicious crops have been harvested and enjoyed.

However, this time of year gardeners are ready to be done pulling weeds, dealing with snails and other creepy crawlers and being heartbroken by crops that didn’t turn out as expected.

Before you take a break from your garden however, make sure you leave it in a good place for the winter season. Although it seems like spring is in the extremely distant future, it will come faster than expected! You will be grateful that you took these extra steps to properly turn-down your garden before the chill of winter takes over your yard.

Here are two tips for proper garden turn-down:

Tip #5. Mulch tree leaves and add to compost pile along with a couple cups of nitrogen fertilizer to speed up the composting rate.

Tip #7. Plant perennials! Visit your local nursery and save big on hardy perennial plants like thyme, sage and oregano. If you’re feeling adventurous, try planting a rhubarb plant too!

For eight other wonderful, garden-saving tips, click here.


The Organic Forecast

Fall Garden Checklist- Top 10