Many homeowners believe that there is little yard maintenance to be done in the fall. Au contraire, DIYers! The investments you make in your lawn and landscape now will help determine the health and appearance of your property next spring. Check out these eight things to do this fall to love your landscape when the temperatures warm.
Feed your lawn for its long winter's nap. Northern lawns benefit from fall fertilization while the grass is still green but has slowed its growth, generally sometime around October, before the soil freezes. (Fertilizing after the ground freezes is not recommended.) In the mid-south, lawns benefit from late summer fertilization followed by a November application. Properly fertilized lawns will green up early next spring and need less fertilizer as temperatures warm.
Winter weed woes. If you have a southern lawn, it will likely go dormant after the first couple of frosts. During the winter when it is brown and not growing, winter weeds can sprout and grow without competition. If they are not treated, a green cover of winter weeds will emerge in the spring, delaying recovery of the health and vibrancy of your lawn. Talk with a professional about an application to prevent weeds before they become a problem.
Bye-bye bare spots. Fall is absolutely the best time to seed thin or bare areas of your northern lawn. Seedlings will root better and be hardier next summer than if you delay this process until spring.
Don't leave leaves behind. Don't let tree leaves smother your lawn during the long winter months. Ideally you can mulch them into the lawn with the help of a mower as that recycles the nutrients and organic matter they contain. If you have too many leaves, bagging them with a lawn mower and using them as mulch on plant beds or adding them to a compost pile are good alternatives. Be careful not to allow leaves to enter storm drains or waterways.
Prune plants. Fall and winter are good times to cut back overgrown woody plant material. Often called "hard pruning" or "rejuvenation pruning," this practice removes dead branches and those branches that are growing back into the plant's canopy or rubbing against other branches. This practice can also be used to reduce plant size and to create new stronger buds in hedges that are repeatedly sheared during the growing season.
Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you. Before you put away your mowing equipment for the winter, prepare it for spring by running it out of fuel. Fuel left in equipment will spoil and may form gum on key engine parts that will prevent the equipment from starting. Rather than leaving gasoline in the gas can all winter, put the gas in your car and purchase fresh gas for your mower when you take it out next spring. Removing the spark plug and placing a tablespoon of oil in the head before replacing the plug is another good step before packing the mower up for winter. If your old mower is on its last leg, now might be a good time to check out sale prices at area stores.
Planting bulbs for spring. If you live in the north, crocus, daffodils, and tulips are the first flowers of spring. Prepare for their arrival by planting bulbs now so they will be conditioned by cold winter soils for flowering. These flowers are most dramatic when planted in masses. Color combinations are widely varied; however, don't be tempted to create a rainbow of colors from the bulbs. One or two strong colors make a powerful impact statement.
Get professional help. Renew your lawn and landscape care contract. Although most lawn agreements renew automatically, some states require an annual renewal process. Many companies that are planning for next season may offer special pricing to continuing customers willing to recommit early. If you don't already work with a professional, it is a good time to research companies and select the right partner to help you love your outdoor living space.