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Autumn Gardening To-Do Checklist for Healthy, Happy, Reimagined, Sustainable Garden Glamour

 Autumn in the garden | Focused Moments

Let’s start off with THE most important element of good gardening: Soil. 

Soil is life-sustaining. 

Simply put; you cannot have a good garden without good soil.

How, you may ask, does one acquire this luxury? 

It’s easier than you may think. 

(Begin by not referring to it as “dirt!”)

Rather, think of soil as alive, its organisms have a starring role in plant health so whether you nurture edible or ornaments ~ or hopefully a duet of the two ~ you’re gonna need to build a commitment to maintaining healthy soil. 

It was a brutal summer for most everyone’s garden this past season: searing temps and generally speaking, drought.  Which often led to invasive insects that sensed opportunity with the compromised plants… 

Therefore, smart gardeners need to take all the necessary steps to protect and nourish the soil and their gardens. 

What To Do

This time of year you can rake (or yes, blow) your leaves into the garden beds. 

This will:

  • Reduce weed growth

  • Moderate soil temperature

  • Maintain soil moisture

  • Mitigate erosion

Leaves are vital to our gardens and environment. They are a natural resource full of nutrients. It is amazing how much effort we put into getting rid of the one thing our soil needs!

When leaves decompose they nourish and enrich the soil. They feed its microbes and organisms.

Saving our leaves can reduce soil infertility and lessen our dependence on synthetic fertilizer.

Why do we dislike leaves that have fallen to the ground?

Leave the Leaves!
It’s Free compost! Plus, raking creates a healthy lawn. You’ll eliminate damaging lawn thatch (dead grass tissue above the soil) as you rake.

Remember the leaf layer is a micro ecosystem. The leaves nurture soil; the leaves form an insulating blanket ensuring a more constant temperature. Remove big, mat-forming leaves (sycamore, oak, maple ) and shred them.

We should mulch leaves, not banish them. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Chop them up using a lawnmower
  • Use a leaf shredder
  • Use a leaf vacuum
  • You can compost them in a pile or in a compost bin 

Which brings me to the next way you can nurture your soil:

When you pull out the annuals or dig up bulbs, including your dahlias and ranunculus to store until next year, be gentle with your soil, it’s advised to not rototill or double-dig the soil.
You want to maintain the rather delicate network of fungal threads.

Compost, Compost, Compost!

There is no better way to build healthy soil.

  • Upcycle your leaves, food scraps (no meat or bones) and turn. 
  • You will create a tasty soil mix of organic materials that you can readily apply to your garden beds.

Mulch is Chicken Soup for Plants.

  • If you use purchased mulch in your garden beds, please lay in organic, not dyed, mulch. A top dressing is good this time of year. 

Mulch, by and large, is leaf mold: partially rotted and shredded leaves.
Many recycling municipalities often offer it free. Work your compost into the soil.

Especially when you plant the garlic this time of year. Think of it as giving your garden beds an energy booster bar!


Here’s a tried and true Autumn To-Do List ~ Reconsidered.

I suggest reconsidering because there are some things that you may not have previously considered or maybe you were just following what you saw your neighbors do…

In any event, this is a Fall Garden list of what you’ll need to do to help ensure a healthier, happier garden.

Cut Back on Cutting Back – Clear Out Garden Debris but not everything. Don’t think of autumn clean up as vacuuming your home. Critters over-winter in the plants and leaf litter.

  • Remove Diseased or Damaged Vegetation 
  • Leave Plant Remains to Provide Protection against freezing temperatures. 
  • For marginally Hardy Perennials, Tender Ferns, or Mums, they benefit from leaving old foliage to provide crown insulation.
  • Leave the deadheads on your perennials, especially hydrangeas!
  • The birds and other pollinators, including animals, enjoy the seeds throughout the fall and winter. 

Many insects that are vital to your garden and the local ecosystem, like native bees, hibernate in these hollow stems.

Not to mention many dried flower heads, like hydrangea, add winter interest to the landscape.

Leaving them on also protects the plants, because for plants with hollow stems, if you cut off the heads the stems can fill with water and can freeze thus killing the plant.

Leave ornamental grasses & seed heads: butterflies, insects spend winter in plant stalks. They are a kind of pollinator hotel.

Plus the grasses look so glorious with snow topping their fluffy, flower heads, offering that much-needed four-season interest.

  • Plant Spring Bulbs! Add hot cayenne pepper flakes to the just-planted bulbs to help ward off the digging squirrels. (reapply as needed; again in the spring to ward off the rabbits)
  • Harvest & Store Edibles
  • Prune roses, blueberries, and evergreens. December is also a good time to prune evergreens ~ not those that flower in spring, including rhododendrons and some azaleas, as you will be cutting off the future buds and blooming.

Use the cut flower or seed heads to decorate your home and plant containers. Nothing like fresh pine, magnolia, or cherry laurels to add fresh fragrance, along with bright seasonal holly leaves and berries.

When it comes to your blueberry bushes, cut out the old wood and remove crossover and low angled canes.

  • Weed ~ Sigh. There’s always something to weed out. But if you can remove invasive weeds that may have taken hold over the growing season, do so. It’s often easier to see these thugs once the leaves on the deciduous trees have fallen and exposed the vines. Or pulling pesky weeds from garden beds once the annuals have been removed and composted. 
  • Don’t put weeds into the compost. 

Prepping for Pollinator Plants  

I wanted to tell you that It’s been my honor and pleasure to trial some very interesting plants from The Michigan Bulb Company.

They loved my Garden Glamour blog (who doesn’t?!). Further, the company noted they want to “provide gardeners of all skill levels with reliable, affordable and thoroughly enjoyable plants.” And who better to tell their story? 

They contacted me in late spring to collaborate, and together, we selected some of their outstanding portfolio of plant offerings ~ and there is a lot to choose from.

We agreed on Curtain Call Pink Anemone, Creme de La Creme Phlox (ooh la la), Kniphofia, and of course, the butterfly magnet: Asclepia, our native milkweed. 

Link over and peruse their site for the very valuable information about growing plants, starting with your Zone and what’s appropriate and recommended for your area. 

I’ve posted on my Instagram and Twitter about their excellent shipping and packaging of the plants. 

If you don’t Follow me, I invite you to.  Smile. You can find me @gardenglamour on Twitter and @gardenglamourbyduchessdesigns on Instagram ~ was hacked earlier this year 🙁 on IG so this is a new account. 

All The plants arrived healthy and happy.

The company provides not only top-tier TLC but also colorful, easy to understand instructions. 

Notwithstanding the biblical summer weather that was: too heavy rain early in the season, followed by no water and hotter than Hades up until almost autumn, I tended my trial plants with the love of a dedicated godmother: watering and prodding them on.

It was a team effort. 

The anemone did bloom; the others grew gracefully but hadn’t produced the hoped for blooms. Panic set in. I pride myself on my persnickety gardening prowess, after all! 

Fretting that my plant parenting skills had skipped a beat, I was greatly reassured when the good gardening sprites at Michigan Bulb Company reassured me that “…sometimes the plants may not fully bloom the first year, as they may be setting their roots. So while they look perfectly healthy,” they added,  “It may be another year before they fully bloom.”

Whew!  And that my friends, is yet another reason to purchase plants from Michigan Bulb Company: They have your back.  You can Trust them.  

They’ve been at this for a very long time.  And their plants are sure to create better gardens. 

According to the company: “Dormant plants are not only the best for planting, they are also the best for shipping. We learned many years ago that the most reliable way to provide our customers with healthy, ready-to-grow products is to ship them dormant plants.” 

For more information, check this out: 

Dormant plants and bulbs 

I know you’ll be with me for the next chapter of growing these splendid plants; seeing them in full bloom. Stay tuned.

Gardeners are a patient and hopeful cohort.

Fall Beauty

At this time of year, there are still so many plants to enjoy in your gardens, in the parks, and at your local botanical gardens.  

Look for interesting foliage. You’ll notice there is a palette of plants that finish out the season.  Nature’s “Finishing Touches,” if you will. 

This way you can record your wish list for spring planting. 

Or if you are in a zone where you can plant now ~ dig in!

Here’s a list of some of my favorite trees and some native perennials, perfect for most every home garden:

  • Japanese Stewartia

  • Weeping Blackgum Autumn Cascade

  • Acer palmatum

  • Kousa Dogwood

  • Acer Shirasawanum ‘Jordan’ Japanese maple    Buy Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' Specimen 1362 | Conifer Kingdom

  • Threadleaf maple acer palmatum ‘Threadleaf’ 

  • Geranium sanguineum   Image result for geranium sanguineum

  • Redbud

  • Blackhaw viburnum

  • Staghorn sumac

  • White oak 

  • Highbush cranberry viburnum trilobumHighbush Cranberry - Viburnum Trilobum | Shrubs | Cold Stream Farm

  • Virginia Sweetspire Itea 

  • White Snakeroot eupatorium rugosum

Photos and Characteristics of Eupatorium rugosum ~ Ageratina altissima ~ white  snakeroot

Most are Native plants and all are glamorous.

Happy Autumn gardening!


  • Garden Glamour

    It's my pleasure! Thank YOU! for your positive feedback and support. I'm so gratified you find the garden information and guidance helpful. And that you seek out the "reputable suppliers" I vet for you. Happy Gardening to you.

  • Anonymous

    Once again great info for keeping a beautiful and healthy garden complete with reputable suppliers. Thanks again Leeann

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

Join me to celebrate a romantic, garden-infused, entertaining lifestyle filled with artful design, sparkling dinner parties, peerless martinis, and copious magnums of champagne!





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