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A Handy 10-Step Checklist to Get Your Greenhouse Ready for Fall

1. Make the Tough Decisions

You probably have some plants that are healthier than others. With crops coming indoors, space is limited and should be utilized efficiently. If you run a retail greenhouse, you need to decide if it is worth trying to nurse struggling plants back to health through overwintering or if that space can be better utilized. If a plant has yet to flourish throughout the season, it is possible the root system is weak. That means you're dedicating valuable resources to a plant that will not appeal to customers or that will bear little fruit come harvest time.

2. Do Plants Need to Move?

If all goes to plan, your plants have grown substantially throughout the season. That often means they need more room in a larger living space. A larger container may be just the answer. We suggest using these last weeks of warm weather to get this done. Repotting when it is warmer out and the sun lasts longer is much easier than when it’s dark early and soil is more difficult to work with.

3. Monitor for Fall Weeds

Henbit, chickweed, annual bluegrass, and vetch love to send up sprouts as soon as the soil begins to cool off. To prevent these fall-germinating weeds from getting a stronghold, you can use pre-emergence herbicides. This list of pre-emergence products has been pre-approved for use by Dr. Joseph C. Neal, professor at North Carolina State University.

4. Cut Things Down to Size

Time to get out those clippers and cut the excessive fat – or foliage. Remove struggling parts of plants and allow nutrients to get to the parts that are already flourishing. It might sound counter-productive, but this will result in healthier plants and tastier, fresher crops when the time comes to harvest. Especially with perennials, reducing the amount of foliage that is exposed through the winter will reduce the places where plant diseases can fester.

5. Manage Temperature Fluctuations

You’ve worked too hard all season to lose your harvest now. One cold night can ruin a year’s worth of work. As the world shifts, temperatures change, and you will need to adapt the environment of your plants accordingly. Time to make sure the heaters are in working order, vents are closed, and integrated environmental controls are monitoring temperatures throughout the entire day.

6. Mind the Moisture

With changing temperature levels comes changing moisture levels. Plants will quickly acquire rot and other disease if this is not monitored. A good suggestion is to monitor these levels with the aforementioned environmental controls. Once disease sets in, removing it from the environment is a tall task. Get ahead of the problem and keep your growing environment at optimal moisture levels.

7. Beware of Four-Legged Pests

If your greenhouse isn’t locked up tight, beware of four-legged invaders. Especially if you had a field of crops that have now been harvested come October. They will be looking for new territory to ravage. You can either bait for rodents such as voles or use no-kill traps. Rabbit barriers can also be placed on doorways to assure that unwanted visitors can’t get to your crops. Just a few of these invaders can destroy months of work so be diligent in pest-proofing your greenhouse.

8. Remove Shading

The days are only getting shorter so light becomes and increasingly valuable resource. If you have covered your greenhouse with a shade cloth to keep out excessive sunlight and avoid heat-stress, you should consider removing that. Your plants will get a boost in growth with a boost in light. Let them soak up the sun while they still can.

9. Maintain Garden Equipment

You may not need that equipment until the spring, but why not have your equipment primed and ready for use when you pick them back up? Shears and secateurs need sharpening, broken handles on rakes need mending (or replacing) and pots likely need replacing. Spring cleaning will be a lot less hectic if this is all completed before spring has even arrived.

10. Store Garden Equipment

Long-handled tools should be hung with care. Find a peg rack that works for you. This will protect edges from rubbing against rough surfaces when moved around and dulled edges. You will extend the life of your tools and keep things organized. It will also maximize the space in your greenhouse, which is always a juggling act.

As gardeners and farmers, preparation is the key to success. This checklist provides a tangible way to assure yourself that your greenhouse is ready for when those first true fall days arrive.

What are some of your must-do autumn preparations? We’d love to hear what’s on your checklist below.