Warmer growing zones of 7 and up typically don’t have the same kind of winter that Northern growing zones do. But the lack of a white Christmas doesn’t mean you can enjoy your winter months any less!
There are just a few fall chores that warm-growing zone gardeners need to tackle to ensure their garden is ready for everything that a mild winter can hold for your landscape.
While warm growing zones don’t have the coldest temperatures, there can be snow, dips in temperature, and the need for some winter plant protection. Plus there are a few chores and maintenance you need to keep in mind!
Deciduous plants are still going to lose their leaves as they go dormant, and evergreens shut down growth in response to cooler nights and shorter daylight hours.
Except for a few plants such as Camellias and Winter Jasmine that flower throughout these months, most plants have slowed down as they wait for spring to arrive once again.
To help roots accustomed to warmer days stay happy despite cooling nights and fluctuating temperatures, you need an extra layer of protection over the root systems! A 3-4 inch thick layer of arborist bark chips, pine bark mulch, or other shredded natural mulch will not only help keep temperatures more regulated underground but also help to absorb the rainfall and hold the moisture, all while enriching the soil as it breaks down.
Now is also a great time to spread your compost over annual and vegetable garden beds to enrich the soil and add an extra mulch-like layer!
Many warm-climate plants are evergreens and Broadleaved Evergreens that keep their leaves all year round. You will still need to keep them well-watered all winter, to help them support their foliage if it does become dry.
Some areas can have drying northern winds that blow and dry out their needles or leaves, so watering as long as the ground remains thawed is a must. Installing drip irrigation or sprinklers that don’t get the leaves wet, keeps the foliage dry and helps to keep the foliage clean and disease-free.
Fall clean-up time! Removing fallen leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs, removing diseased leaves from perennials, and cleaning out the interiors of shrubs to keep them open to air circulation and sunlight. This will prevent most of your foliar and disease issues from taking hold and any that were present that year from carrying over into the next.
For fruit trees and shrubs, remove any fallen fruit from the area and from your tree to prevent disease and self-seeding.
Clean out your vegetable gardens and pull out old annuals when they are done. It’s important not to leave their foliage to rot and fruit to self-seed over the winter - leading to more work for you in the spring and possible fungal/disease outbreaks. Replace with fall and winter annuals and accent plants, or even cover crops as placeholders to cover the bare ground until the spring planting season.
Don't forget to change out your container plantings with some fun plants for winter, or add in some fall and holiday berries and branches.
Pruning some plants is necessary if they did have disease, fungal, or pest issues. For most plants, you want to avoid pruning until spring or after they’ve bloomed. You can find the full list of what to prune and why in our Fall Pruning Garden Blog.
Those winter-blooming shrubs and flowering bushes can get a trim after they are done flowering too.
Fall is the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs for your growing zone like Daffodils, Tulips, and more! The cooler nights mean the plants stay dormant while the warm soil below ground helps them set those much-needed roots - allowing for big blooms next year! Plant and water in well, marking the ground so you know where they will come up in the spring.
Fall is the perfect time of year to transplant trees, shrubs, and many perennials! So go ahead and relocate that plant that might have gotten too big this year or one that doesn’t look right in its current home.
Mow your lawn a few last times but let it grow out a little before it completely slows down. Some like to overseed with warm-season grass seed and install grass plugs to thinning areas unless fertilizer is enough to thicken your turf areas up.
Apply winterizing fertilizer or a weed-and-feed fertilizer can eliminate the early spring fertilization and your lawn will take off nicely as the weather allows.
Move excess fallen leaves from the turf to your garden beds, mow over them until they’re finely shredded, or create a wildlife station in a back corner with sticks, twigs, clean leaves, and garden debris for your beneficial insects to have a place to overwinter with their larvae and eggs.
Garden art and sculptures need UV-resistant paint or protective coatings after a thorough cleaning so they can look great all year! Clean and sharpen tools, organize your shed and garage, and perform maintenance on your pond, fountains, and other water features during these slower months of the year!
Even warmer climates can have wild weather, storms, and rogue freezes! Any container tropicals need a place to move to in case of an occasional dip in temperatures, and you will want covers for your Citrus trees, larger tropical plants, and trees ready to go should a freeze warning be issued. For plants that will migrate indoors for the winter, begin acclimating them now by moving them into shaded areas so they don’t go into shock at the consistently warm and lower light conditions that your home has waiting for them.
Reserve areas for plants to move into in case of hurricanes or storms that show up in the fall and winter. Get container plants on casters or have a hand truck ready to move them on demand.
Stake newly planted or young trees and top-heavy plants to help them withstand strong winds.
Now is a great time to sit back and reflect on what went right and what went wrong from the past growing season! Record your thoughts and plans for next year in your favorite garden journal or gardening app, so you know what to do differently next year! Keep track of where you planted your vegetable crops in the garden so you can rotate plants like tomatoes which will appreciate that.
All because your landscape is winding down and temperatures are cooling, unfortunately, it doesn't mean you can just yet! Not only is the cooler weather easier for gardeners to get outside and perform chores, but it's a great time to prepare your garden for spring!
An ounce of prep and prevention now will lead to a bigger and brighter garden next spring! Plus, fall is a great time to put your spring plant order in with Nature Hills! We’ll ship your plants at the proper planting time when it's safe, so check out our website today and start gearing up for a beautiful 2024 gardening season now!