Fall Vegetable Garden Cleanup

You’ve enjoyed a bountiful harvest from your vegetable garden all summer long, and maybe well into the fall. But now it’s time to start thinking about your fall vegetable garden cleanup.

To maintain a healthy, productive garden, it’s important to prep your space for the winter months. This becomes easier when the temperatures drop in the fall and you no longer have to work in the sweltering heat of summer.

It can seem like a daunting task, but with a little planning and preparation, cleaning the garden in the fall can be a breeze. From removing any dead or dying plants from your garden beds to adding compost or other organic matter to your garden beds, this guide will help you know what to do.

Fall garden cleanup ultimately will improve your garden’s health and make planting in the spring that much easier!

Before Fall Vegetable Garden Cleanup

Before you start pulling out all your plants and tossing them in the compost, there are a few things every gardener should do first.

Take Note of What Is Where

Before you start yanking out all your plants, take note of what is growing where. I inevitably don’t follow my garden plan exactly, and while I don’t currently practise strict crop rotation, I do try not to plant the same thing in the exact same spot every year.

You may also be leaving some crops to go to seed. Or you may even be leaving root vegetables like carrots and parsnips in the ground to harvest as needed through the winter. Just make sure to cover with a good layer of mulch!

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Do a Soil Test

Fall is the perfect time to do a soil test. You want to know what nutrients your soil is lacking so that you can amend it before planting next spring.

You can purchase a soil test kit at your local garden center or online. The kit will tell you what nutrients your soil needs and how much of each to add.

Don’t skip the soil test! It’s an important step in ensuring that your garden will thrive next season.

Plus, it’s kind of fun to play mad scientist with your soil. If you have kids, it’s also a great hands on science lesson!

Remove Diseased Plants

Diseased plants can spread illness to other plants in your garden. And before you know it, your entire garden is infected. It’s like the plant version of the zombie apocalypse. So, it’s important to remove any diseased plants as soon as you notice them. No need to wait for fall for this!

But how do you know if a plant is diseased? Look for these signs:

  • Spots on the leaves or fruit
  • Discoloration
  • Wilting
  • Stunted growth
  • Mold or fungus

If you spot any of these signs, it’s time to say goodbye to that plant. But what do you do with the diseased plants once you’ve removed them?

Do you throw them in the trash? Burn them? Bury them in the backyard? No, no, and no. The best thing to do is to dispose of them in the garbage. Don’t compost them, as the disease can remain in the finished compost and infect your garden all over again when you add it back to your garden.

Removing diseased plants is crucial to keeping your garden healthy and thriving. Keep an eye out for signs of disease, and don’t be afraid to say goodbye to a plant if it’s sick. And remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Remove Weeds

Weeds always seem to find their way into your garden, don’t they? But with a little effort, you can easily remove those pesky weeds and keep your vegetable garden looking pristine.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to remove weeds is to pull them out by hand. Yes, it takes a bit of work, but it’s easier if you do a little bit consistently instead of letting the weeds take over before you take care of them.

Make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands. When pulling weeds by hand, it’s important to remove all of the plant, including the roots. Otherwise, they’ll just grow back and you’ll have to start all over again. If the root is particularly long or stubborn, and hand tool can be helpful to get it all out.

If you have a lot of weeds to remove, you might want to consider using a hoe or cultivator. These tools make it easy to quickly remove weeds from large areas. Just be careful not to damage the roots of your vegetables in the process.

Forget to mulch one season, and you will realize why we say to use mulch to prevent weeds from growing in the first place. A layer of mulch helps to smother weeds and helps to retain moisture in the soil.

Whatever method you choose, just make sure to remove weeds regularly. If you let them go, they’ll quickly take over your garden and you’ll be left with a mess. Ask me how I know…

Compost Healthy Plant Matter

Composting is a great way to recycle healthy plant matter and create nutrient-rich soil for next year’s garden. But before you start throwing everything into the compost pile, it’s important to know what should and should not be composted.

First things first, what can you compost? You can compost leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and healthy plant debris. These materials are rich in nutrients and will break down into a dark, crumbly soil amendment that your garden will love.

What you should not compost? Do not compost any diseased plant material, weeds that have seed heads, or any plants that have been treated with herbicides or pesticides. These materials can contaminate your compost pile and spread disease or harmful chemicals to your garden.

When composting healthy plant matter, chop it up into smaller pieces. This will help it decompose faster and create a more uniform compost. You can use a chipper or shredder to break up larger branches and stems, or simply chop them up with a machete or pruning shears.

Once you have your compost pile started, make sure to turn it regularly to aerate it and speed up the decomposition process. You can also add a compost activator to help break down the materials faster.

Leave Cover for Beneficial Insects

You know what’s worse than having pests in your garden? Having no pollinators to help your plants grow! That’s why it’s important to leave some cover for beneficial insects during fall garden clean up.

Leaves, dead flowers, and other debris can provide a cozy home for overwintering pollinators and other beneficial insects. So, instead of raking up every last leaf, consider leaving some areas untouched. Especially in areas you’ve noticed beneficial insects or pollinators.

You can cut back some plants and leave a portion of the stem and even foliage to provide shelter. Or consider leaving a small brush pile for shelter in a corner of your garden.

Not only will you be helping out the bugs, but you’ll also be doing yourself a favor. Beneficial insects can help control pests in your garden come springtime, so it’s a win-win situation.

Add Compost And Mulch

Now that you’ve removed all the dead plants and debris from your fall vegetable garden, it’s time to add some compost to the soil and cover with mulch. This will help enrich the soil and protect it from the harsh winter weather.

Compost adds nutrients to your soil and improves its structure. You can use your homemade compost, aged manure, worm castings, or even mushroom compost! Cover your beds in 1 to 2 inches of compost to enrich the soil for the next season. 

Mulch is a great way to protect your soil and improve its structure. It helps retain moisture in the soil, which is especially important during the dry winter months. You can use a variety of materials for mulch, including straw, leaves, and wood chips.

To mulch your garden, simply spread a layer of mulch over your soil, making sure to leave a little space around the base of each plant. You want to avoid smothering your plants with too much mulch.

A layer of 2 to 3 inches should be sufficient. This will also help prevent soil erosion and keep your garden looking neat and tidy.

You can also consider using a cover crop as an excellent way to improve soil health and prepare your vegetable garden for winter. It can help to prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds, and add organic matter to the soil, making it easier for your vegetables to grow and thrive in the spring.


Fall garden cleanup is an essential task for maintaining a healthy and productive garden. By removing dead or diseased plants, clearing out weeds, adding compost, and covering the soil with mulch, you can improve soil health, prevent erosion, and protect sensitive plants from frost damage.

While it may seem like a daunting task, with a little planning and preparation, fall garden cleanup can be a breeze. By taking the time to clean up your garden in the fall, you’ll set yourself up for success in the spring and ensure a bountiful harvest for years to come.

Do you have tips or tricks you’ve picked up about fall gardening or clean up? Let us know in the comments, and we can all learn from each other!

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