Preparing Your Garden for Fall

Preparing Your Garden for Fall

When fall comes around, it is time to start preparing your garden for winter. Gardening is a highly beneficial activity for seniors. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Gardening requires regular and continuous care; therefore, for older adults actively engaged with their home gardens, gardening provides opportunities for increased physical activity, which can prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of some cancers, Type 2 diabetes, depression and heart disease.” (1)

Additionally, a study from states that, “Findings indicate that gardeners reported significantly better balance and gait speed and had fewer chronic conditions and functional limitations than non-gardeners. Significantly fewer gardeners than non-gardeners reported a fall in the past 2 years. The findings suggest that gardening may be a potential activity to incorporate into future fall-prevention programs.” (2)

If you enjoy gardening, there are a variety of tasks you can take care of during the fall to keep your garden healthy. There are also multiple ways you can help keep yourself safe and healthy while you garden, such as an emergency alert system from Alert1. Check out these tips to keep both your garden and yourself healthy.

Fall Gardening Checklist

 1. Buy Supplies

Before you start any work, you will want to ensure that you have the tools that you require. This includes items such as fertilizers, seeds, shovels, rakes, and gloves. If you need something, take a trip to a hardware or garden store to get what you need.

While you’re out and about, an on-the-go medical alert device can be a useful tool that can help keep you safe. At the press of a button, this device connects to a certified emergency response agent who will determine what kind of care you require and get it to you immediately. They will also stay on the line until help arrives.

2. Weed and Rake

Clear your garden of weeds that are competing against your plants for water and nutrients. This will help ensure your plants grow strong and healthy. Raking will also break up clumps of dirt that make it difficult for plants to grow.

Be sure to wear a senior fall alert device while weeding. Weeds that are stuck in the ground require extra force to pull them out. This extra force can cause seniors to fall backwards. By wearing medical alert jewelry, you will know that you can get help if you need it.

3. Clean Up Your Garden

Along with weeds, your garden may have some dead or decaying plants as well. Clear these out to make room for new plants. You may also have a bird feeder, bird bath, or other garden ornaments. Clean them off to keep your garden looking great or store them away so that winter weather doesn’t ruin their appearance. 

4. Test Your Soil

Fall is the ideal time to test the soil of your garden. Penn State Extension lists three main reasons for this:

  • Soil sampling in the fall after crops have been harvested lets you walk through the field to collect soil cores without trampling a standing crop.
  • The soil has usually moistened up a bit, so it's easier to get a soil probe in and out of the ground.
  • You will receive the results from the soil testing with enough time to make a game plan for lime, fertilizer, and manure applications for the coming year. (3)

5. Trim Perennial Plants

By trimming your perennial plants in the fall, you can help keep your garden looking neat throughout winter and improve its appearance next spring. It will have more energy to devote to its roots so that it can grow stronger and healthier the following year.

6. Compost

While you can choose to compost in the fall or spring, many gardeners prefer to do so in the fall. This is because the ground and soil are at a good consistency to work with. Additionally, there are typically fewer gardening tasks to take care of in the fall. You can save yourself time and energy when spring comes.

7. Plant Crops that Will Last the Winter

If you have any crops to plant that will last through the winter, fall is a great time to plant them. You can save yourself time and energy when spring rolls around. This will also give plants time to establish their roots in the soil.

8. Clean and Organize Your Tools

Once you are finished with the main gardening work, you will want to clean off and organize your tools. Cleaning them will help them work more efficiently the next time you need to use them and help them to last longer. Organizing your tools will help you find them when needed, and assist you to easily analyze what supplies you have and what you need. 

9. Bring Some Plants Inside

If you have any plants that can’t last through winter weather, put them in pots and bring them inside. This will help prevent them from dying off in the winter frost.

If you have limited mobility, but still enjoy gardening, consider a mini-garden or a windowsill garden. This can help bring you the joys of gardening while reducing the strain.

While bringing your plants inside, you may have to go up and down stairs or uneven terrain. Keep yourself protected with a panic button alarm for the elderly. If you need help, you can get it right away.

10. Plan Next Year’s Garden

Fall is a great time to plan your next garden. Figure out what plants you’d like to have and how you will lay them out. Think about what supplies you will need and decide upon a timeline to plant them.

Gardening Tips for Seniors

 There are many gardening tips seniors can use to be safe and healthy while gardening.

  • Consider a Vertical Garden

Vertical gardening helps decrease the amount of bending and kneeling you will have to do while gardening. Staying upright with a vertical garden is a great fall prevention strategy.

  • Reduce the Size of Your Garden

While gardening is a fun activity with a variety of benefits, you don’t want it to overburden yourself either. Each year it is a good idea to think about if you can handle all your gardening tasks or if it might be time to reduce the size of your garden. While you may not want to stop gardening entirely, you might want to limit the number of plants.

If you are unsure what garden size is right for you, start with something average, and modify your garden as needed. According to a study from SAGE Journals, “Most participants reported their garden was an average house block (up to one-quarter acre), with 22.40% being greater than this and 21.80% smaller than this.” (4)

  • Add Places to Sit

If you don’t have a place to sit in your garden, consider adding a bench or chair. This will provide you with a place to sit if you need a break. It will also provide you with a place to relax and enjoy the results of your hard work.

  • Find Ways to Improve the Terrain to Prevent Falls for Seniors

If your garden has steep slopes, steps, or uneven terrain, look for ways to even out the landscape to reduce your fall risk. Some home fall-prevention interventions you may want to consider include hiring a landscaper to create stable pathways, removing tripping hazards, or installing railings that you can use to steady yourself.

  • Use Fencing to Keep Animals Out

Depending on where you live, you may have animals that may try to get into your garden. A fence can help keep out deer, cats, and dogs. Animals that can fly or climb can be more difficult to keep out. However, chicken wire or caging can help you keep these critters out.

  • Install an Irrigation System

One way you can reduce the amount of work you have to do to take care of your garden is to install an irrigation system. The irrigation system can help water your plants for you so that you don’t have to worry about carrying water back and forth or tripping over a garden hose.

  • Choose Lightweight Planters

If you use planters, choose lightweight pots so that you don’t have to strain your muscles when carrying them around. If you do have any heavy pots, consider purchasing an Alert1 on-the-go Medical Alert Wrist Watch. The watch is lightweight so it won’t weigh you down and will give you a way to easily contact an emergency response agent if you fall and need assistance.

  • Avoid Hanging Baskets

If you have limited mobility, try to avoid hanging baskets. These tend to dry out quickly and may require more attention.

  • Consider Joining a Community Garden

If you enjoy gardening, but don’t have room for one, consider joining a community garden. This will allow you to do something you love, make friends, and be part of a larger project.

Joining a community garden will likely involve you traveling more often. An on-the-go personal alarm button for seniors can help keep you safe while you garden away from your home. The GPS within the system can allow emergency assistance to find you no matter where you are.

  • Fall Prevention Strategies and Ways to Avoid Injuries

There are multiple ways to avoid injury while gardening as a senior.

Vary Your Activities – This will help prevent you from overusing the same muscles and straining them.

Bend at the Knees and Hips – Bending at your knees and hips rather than bending at your back will help you stay balanced and avoid injuries. 

Choose Bright Tools or Wrap Them in Tape – Having colorful tools can help you find them if you drop them. Then you don’t have to spend time searching around or risk falling.

Choose Manual Tools – Power tools can be dangerous. By using manual tools, you can help regain some control to decrease your chances of getting injured.

Look for Gardening Tools for Seniors – Consider purchasing gardening tools specifically made for seniors. This may include a cushion to kneel on, tools with special grips, or tools with extended handles.

Wear Proper Footwear – Wear shoes that are stable and offer cushioned support. This will help you keep your balance and avoid foot pain.

Garden Together - Gardening can be a great way to socialize and bond. Garden with your family caregiver or someone who can handle more strenuous activities. 

  • Enjoy Your Garden

If you put a lot of time into gardening, you will also want to take the time to enjoy it. Gardening can provide you with a variety of benefits.

Exercise and Muscle Strengthening – The various movements involved in gardening help work your heart and muscles. According to Home Care Assistance, “Planting and pulling weeds can help you burn 200 to 400 calories an hour.” (5) This will keep your muscles toned, reduce your fall risk, and help avoid heart diseases and conditions.

Vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to regulate calcium and phosphate levels. These nutrients help keep your bones and muscles strong.

Reduce Stress – Gardening helps reduce your cortisol levels and connects you with nature.

Decrease Risk of Dementia – Gardening requires critical thinking skills. Planning your garden and making the right decisions to keep your garden healthy can help keep your mind sharp. This also reduces the risk of developing dementia.

  • Use an Alert1 Medical Alert Device to Keep You Safe

Gardening can help keep you healthy, but you also want to ensure that you are safe while you are clearing weeds, planting seeds, and watering your garden. An Alert1 medical alert system for seniors guarantees that you can get help if you experience a medical emergency while gardening. If you require help, all you need to do is press a button and you will be immediately connected to an emergency response agent.

You can also opt for an emergency alert system with fall detection that has built-in sensors and can automatically contact our 24/7 Command Centers if a fall is detected.

     Autumn gardening can be a fun, safe, and fulfilling experience for senior citizens.



1,4 Scott, Theresa L. Masser, Barbara M. Pachana, Nancy A. Jan. 2020. Positive Aging Benefits of Home and Community Gardening Activities: Older Adults Report Enhanced Eelf-Esteem, Productive Endeavours, Social Engagement and Exercise. SAGE Open Medicine. Positive Aging Benefits of Home and Community Gardening Activities: Older Adults Report Enhanced Eelf-Esteem, Productive Endeavours, Social Engagement and Exercise.

2 Chen, Tuo-Yu. Janke, Megan C. Jan. 2012. Gardening as a Potential Activity to Reduce Falls in Older Adults. Gardening as a Potential Activity to Reduce Falls in Older Adults.

3 Penn State Extension staff. Sept. 2020. Fall Is the Perfect Time for Soil Sampling. Penn State Extension. Fall Is the Perfect Time for Soil Sampling.