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Early Fall Projects

Author:Terry Baldwin
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firewood stacked in round holder on porch
photo by Anne Nygard on unsplash

Early fall is a great time to tackle outdoor projects. The sun is still shining, the temperatures are comfortable, and you can enjoy being outdoors. Here are some projects that are perfect for this time of year.

Plant cool-season veggies & flowers

concrete urn with bright pink mums and flowering kale in front of purple house

Late summer and early fall are great times to grow vegetables that prefer cooler temps, like kale, lettuce, and spinach. The vegetables' planting times vary depending on your region, so check with your local extension service.

Is your vegetable garden done for the season? Give it a good cleanup now so it's ready to go in spring.

If you have a container garden, replace spent summer annuals with fall bloomers, such as flowering kale and cabbage, pansies, and mums. Check your local garden center now for plants—and don't forget grasses! Pansies are my favorite cool-season flower. They are available in many colors. Here in Michigan, pansies will go dormant after frost but come back to life in early spring—such a welcome sight after a long, gray winter!

Bring tropical plants indoors if necessary. Some will continue to flourish under the right conditions, and they can go back outside next summer..

Divide & transplant perennial plants

Early fall’s cooler temperatures mean less stress for transplanted perennials. Plants that have outgrown their spots (like daylilies or hostas) can be divided into more plants. Dig them up and separate them into clumps. Replant the clumps in a new spot or give them away. Your original plant will continue to grow. Now is also an ideal time to plant new perennials. Your newbies will have plenty of time to grow roots and will wake up raring to go next spring. 

Plant a tree

Fall is the perfect time to plant a tree or bush. With cooler temperatures and autumn rains, trees are able to put their energy into growing their roots, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. You can even plant trees in frozen ground, as long as you can dig the soil. This is because trees are dormant in winter and aren’t growing.

Prep next year's garden

Feeling inspired to grow your own vegetables next summer? Whether you’re digging up the ground or planting a raised bed garden, you’ll have less work next spring if you get the ground ready now.

Fall is the perfect time for the lazy gardener’s no-dig method: place several newspaper layers over the soil, cover the layers with compost, and cover the compost with mulch. Next spring, remove the mulch (save to re-use). When you dig into the ground, it’ll be like cutting into birthday cake!

Mend fences, build decks

This is also a great time to repair or build a fence or a deck. Maybe you only have a few broken pickets. If so, replacement pickets are easy to find for both privacy and spaced-picket fencing.

You’ve probably been in your backyard a lot this summer. Wishing it felt more secluded? Put up a privacy fence now. Once the leaves drop, you’ll feel even more exposed.

If you have a deck, it likely got a lot of use this summer. Does the railing need replacing or repair? How about those post caps? Take care of those updates now and have less work next spring. You spent the summer wishing you had a deck? Decks can be built as long as the ground is unfrozen. Build now and enjoy your deck throughout fall, or all year, depending on where you live.

Replenish your firewood supply

firewood stacked in round holder on porch

Stack firewood so it can dry (and stay dry). Because critters can take up residence in stacked firewood, Cornell University recommends storing the wood at least 30 feet from your house (It’s OK to keep a small amount close by or in your garage). Cover only the top of the wood pile. It will need some airflow to let moisture dry out.

Refresh your entry

If your summer welcome mat has faded, replace it with a fresh one. If your household is active, consider putting an additional mat inside your entry to keep tracked-in dirt off your floors.

How visible are your house numbers? If they’re faded or a little boring, spritz on a new coat of spray paint or install a brand new address plaque. That will help delivery drivers find your house once holiday packages start to arrive.

Need more curb appeal? Fill a planter or two with fall flowers and add accessories.

I hope this list gets you outside and busy in the late-summer sunshine. (If you live where it’s warm year-round, I’m feeling a wee bit jealous!) Here are a few products you might like.