Gardener's Almanac: Fall Gardening and Preparing for Winter

We have some timely fall gardening tips for where you live, including how you should go about preparing for winter.

| October/November 2006

  • fall gardening, preparing for winter - wilting sunflower illustration
    When the sunflowers are ready to drop their seeds, you know it's time to start preparing for winter.
    Illustration by Judith Ann Griffith/Seed Savers Exchange
  • fall gardening, preparing for winter - pumpkins, squash, and gourds
    Squash and pumpkins should be cured for two weeks before being stored for the winter. After harvesting, put the fruit in an airy place outdoors and protect them from frost. They will develop a harder shell that allows them to be stored for months at temperatures between 50 and 65 degrees in a dry basement, closet or garage.
    Walter Chandoha
  • fall gardening, preparing for winter - map of US planting zones
    Map of U.S. planting zones.

  • fall gardening, preparing for winter - wilting sunflower illustration
  • fall gardening, preparing for winter - pumpkins, squash, and gourds
  • fall gardening, preparing for winter - map of US planting zones

For gardeners, October is a month of transitions. Shorter and cooler days signal the arrival of harvest season, but much depends on where you live in the U.S. In southern areas, you may be able to squeeze in weeks more of fall gardening. In northern latitudes and mountain areas, you had best start preparing for winter.

Maritime Canada and New England

The geese honk overhead as they fly south. We watch them pass as we clean frost-killed plants from the garden. Harvest tasks abound. Clean the root cellar and bring in cabbage, carrots, beets, leeks, apples and more. Harvest apples carefully; bruising shortens storage life. Winter squash need to be cured before storing to toughen the skin and decrease moisture in the flesh. Spread the squash in an airy shed or greenhouse to protect them from frost damage. After about two weeks, the skin will be hardened, and the squash can be stored at 50 to 65 degrees in a basement, garage or root cellar. Some people wipe the cured squash with a light coat of vegetable oil to retain moisture.

Plant garlic, and don’t forget fall flower bulbs. Protect fruit trees and grape vines from mice with tree guards or collars of quarter-inch hardware cloth. In the orchard, mow the grass short to discourage rodent nesting, and mulch perennials with leaves. Mid-November brings the Leonid meteor showers, signaling firewood season. It must be time to bake some pies.

Roberta Bailey, Fedco Seeds, Waterville, Maine 


Frost is around the corner. Harvest tender crops or have fabric row covers ready to protect them. Try spraying leafy greens with a seaweed extract a few days before the first frost to toughen them up and extend the harvest. In mid-October, gather, wash, dry and cure the peanut crop. For long-lasting garlic, the storage area should be lower than 40 degrees or higher than 50 degrees; temperatures in between will initiate sprouting.

Plant yellow potato onions, Egyptian onions and garlic by mid-November. Test soil and spread lime or gypsum as needed. In late November, cut down asparagus tops and remove all the ferns. Weed and mulch berries and transplant new blueberry bushes. Enjoy the last outdoor lettuce, broccoli and celery. This year, try fermenting part of your cabbage harvest, for kimchi or sauerkraut. And take time to relax new seed catalogs will be in your mailbox any day.


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