Do's and don'ts of late fall landscaping and gardening

Vijai Pandian

Don’t remove your cole crops too early from your garden. Cole crops like kale, collards, broccoli and cabbage can tolerate light frost and taste better in cold temperatures.  Continue to harvest the crops until the temperature drops into the 20s. 

Freshly dug canna should be air dried before storing in the basement.

Carrots, beet, rutabagas, turnip and horseradish also can be left in the ground and mulched with straw to prevent from freezing. Continue to harvest the crops until early winter. Use floating row cover to protect leafy vegetables from cold temperatures.

Plant garlic cloves now (not more than 2 inches deep), and mulch the planted bed with straw after the ground freezes in late November.

Don’t cut back on your perennials until they turn brown or wait until late November when the ground begins to freeze.

Pulverized tree leaves can be mulched into the lawn to about 1-2 inches high. Use a rotary mover to chop the dry leaves over the area. It may take three to four passes to get a finer leaf size.

Don’t store any freshly dug tender bulbs (cannas, elephant ears, dahlias, caladium, begonia) immediately in storage boxes. Allow a week to air dry the freshly dug tender bulbs at normal room temperature before storing in an unheated basement. This will prevent mold formation and help in sorting out healthy bulbs. 

Give a good soaking water to your evergreens before the ground freezes. Winter winds and sunny weather in winter months can dehydrate the needles faster and can lead to winter burn injuries. Well-watered evergreens in the late fall season have a better chance to prevent winter burn injury.

Wait until after the first hard freeze to remove yellow jacket and paper wasp nests in the attic and in wall void areas. Except for the queen, the entire colony dies during the first hard freeze. The queen migrates out of the old nest and overwinters underneath logs, tree bark, or even within a building, but she won’t reuse the old nest.

Know the type of hydrangeas before you attempt to prune them. Smooth leaf hydrangeas like Annabelle and Invincibelle produce flower buds on the new wood, and all the shoots can be pruned to the ground in late fall or early spring before the new growth appears. However, big leaf and climbing hydrangeas develop flower buds on the old wood, and any pruning should be restricted to removing selective branches (broken, weak) in the spring.  Endless Summer and Nikko Blue hydrangea are cultivars of big leaf hydrangea but tend to produce flower buds both in the new wood and old wood. Panicle hydrangeas like Limelight, Little Lamb and PeeGee produce flower buds on the new wood, and any pruning should be restricted to dead-heading the flowers either in late fall or early spring.

Vijai Pandian is horticultural agent/educator for Brown County University of Wisconsin-Extension. For questions and advice, contact the Extension's Horticulture Help Desk at 920-391-4615 or