Sad News: It’s Already Fall! 

Fall equinox will occur on September 22 and this signals the official start of autumn … but for gardeners, fall has already begun. You can feel it by the slowing of plant growth, the first blooms on fall-flowering plants … and there are even trees that starting to change color. It’s not the cold nights that cause these reactions in plants, but rather the shortening days. There are fewer hours of sunlight and the plants see this as a signal to start preparing for winter. 


The onset of fall also signals to gardeners a series of actions they must or can take to make the most of the season. 


  • Bring in houseplants that spent the summer outdoors. Not only don’t they tolerate the cold nights that will soon arrive, but they reacclimatize more readily to indoor conditions if they are brought in early. 
  • Thoroughly rinse indoor plants with a good stream of water before bringing them indoors. That will knock off any insects that may be hiding there. Also, spray with an insecticidal soap solution. 
  • Repot houseplants that have outgrown their pot size during their summer outdoors. 


Sod pulled from soill and bulbs laying on bare soil
You can plant early spring bulbs directly in the lawn. This is called naturalizing. Photo:
  • Watch for the arrival of spring-flowering bulbs in stores. Buy them as soon as they arrive, because not only does the choice decrease rapidly, but storage conditions in most stores are harmful to the bulbs and they’ll soon begin to dry out. 
  • Plant certain spring-flowering bulbs without delay. Most bulbs can be stored in a cool, dark place until as late as October, if you want, but some small bulbs dry out quickly, notably winter aconites, anemones and fawn lilies (trout lilies). Therefore, you should plant those without delay. 
  • Plant fall-flowering bulbs. You also have to plant colchicums and autumn-blooming crocuses early, as soon as they arrive in local stores; otherwise they’ll bloom in their bag! 

Perennials, Trees and Shrubs

Pair of hands ripping appart root ball in the Fall
Fall is a good time to to divide perrenials. Photo:
  • You can divide or transplant most garden plants at this time of year. The big exceptions are fall-flowering plants, which are still actively growing, and slow-growing plants, especially those of limited hardiness, such as many rhododendrons. Wait until spring to divide or transplant these.
  • Stop fertilizing. It isn’t wise to fertilize hardy plants (trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials, etc.) in fall, because late fertilization can stimulate new growth that will not have time to harden off with the onset of winter. It will therefore be subject to winter damage. 

Vegetable Garden

  • Be ready to harvest cold-sensitive vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants/aubergines, beans) as soon as the first frost is announced. They can also be covered with a “tent” (of floating row cover, old sheets, plastic sheeting) to protect them if the cold isn’t expected to last more the 24 hours. 


Roll of sod laying on fresh soil in the Fall
Fall is also a good time for installing sod. Photo:
  • Lay sod or sow grass seed. You can also topdress and oversow a weak lawn to thicken it up. You’ll have much more success repairing lawns in the fall than in the spring. 

And there you go: a few minor jobs you can carry out now, or at least soon, so that your garden remains beautiful throughout fall and into next year. Nothing too strenuous for a laidback gardener, of course! Just a few things you might want to try when you have a couple of minutes of free time and feel like interacting with your plants! 

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

8 comments on “Sad News: It’s Already Fall! 

  1. Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Great read! Job well done.

  2. Sad news?! Goodness! Fall is rather mundane here. Actually, winter is not much to brag about either. We like both though, because that is when the rain starts. Summer is great, but it lasts so long. As a native here, I am accustomed to it. Nonetheless, it is nice when the weather gets cooler and rainer, and all those plants that worked so hard for so long get ready for some time off. I had always been fascinated with foliar color during autumn in other regions, so colorful trees are appreciated here. We add a few more of them than we should, and they do happen to look great among the redwoods. Sweetgum does not need much chill to color very well, and holds its foliage for a long time into winter, since there is not much harsh weather to dislodge it.

  3. A bitter sweet time of year. Love the cooler days, harvesting fruits and vegetables, the golden light and the more relaxed attitude towards the garden. However, miss those long days and knowing that cold weather will be all too soon upon us.

  4. Meant to leave exclamation points at the end. Ah well, Fall doesn’t rule for everyone! ?

  5. Nothing sad about Fall! My favorite season. Not a heat lover.

    Spring is second fav. Winter is bleah. Summer bearable due to growing things.

    But Fall rules! ??????

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