As the temperatures fall a little and summer winds down, your lawn and garden are likely in need of some attention. These top seven fall landscaping tasks are essential to the health and cleanliness of your property, so be sure to make the time and get working outdoors this fall.
Task 1 — Start a Fresh Lawn
Autumn is an excellent time to seed your yard, building a fresh lawn from scratch. Sod is convenient, but is often very expensive. Planting grass seed is an easy way to start a lawn, as long as you are willing to take care of the patch until it is well established. Traffic must be kept off of the area and regular, gentle watering is required.
The temperatures at this time of year are ideal for seeding. We've left behind the scorching daytime heat of summer, but have not yet reached the freezing conditions of winter. And fall is full of moisture, creating the sponginess that works well for seeds.
Whether you have just moved in or are reseeding a patchy section of an existing yard, the fall is your chance to establish a strong lawn you can enjoy next year.
Task 2 — Bring On the Bulbs
Spring bulbs, like tulips, dandelions and crocuses, brighten those early days of the gardening season. But in order to have healthy bulbs in the coming season, you will need to do the hard work right in September, October and November.
Dig the bulbs down to the specified depth and plant with roots down. Be sure to gather in groups of three, six or nine — larger patches of flowers look better than single blooms. And try to coordinate the colors as well, since spring bulbs stand out in the dreariness of the season.
Don't forget about unique bulbs, as well as the tried and true favorites. Snowdrops make a nice groundcover, while anything in the narcissus family will serve as a dramatic opening to the spring season.
Task 3 — Clean Up the Garden
Fall is the time to put your garden to bed. Clean up any overgrown perennials and be sure to remove all diseased foliage and flowers. Burn or completely discard organic matter that contains disease. Putting this in your composter will only spread the problem around.
There are two opposing camps when it comes to fall garden clean up. Some gardeners trim every plant and remove flowers, seeds and berries. This presents a bare garden in the springtime, giving them a leg up on first-of-the-year tasks. But it also eliminates food for the local wildlife, which usually depend on these things over the winter.
Other gardeners opt to keep the birds and small animals happy by leaving their garden mostly standing in the fall. Snow will cover much of the growth, but that will also speed up the composting process and ends up enriching the soil. Beware — this path results in much more extensive clean up come spring. But many feel that the natural benefits far outweigh that disadvantage.
Task 4 — Weed Out the Weeds
However you handle the garden clean up, get rid of any weeds that you can see. Try to take the weeds out at the root otherwise you will see them again in the spring. Weeds on the lawn should be eliminated as well, using whatever method you normally use.
Weeds should also be burned or discarded off. Composting weed seeds is like asking for trouble. And many municipal composting organizations do not want your weeds.
Task 5 — Prep the Vegetable Patch for Next Year
As you pick the last of the tomatoes and gourds, corn and pumpkins, be mindful of how you leave the vegetable patch. Pull out any diseased and spent foliage. Many farmers simply turn the soil over with the leftover produce mixed in. This will result in better quality soil overall, but can present a bit of a challenge for residential gardeners.
You may not have the equipment to handle this type of soil turnover. You also may be using the rotation method of organic pest control, which means that next you will not be planting the same vegetables in that patch of the garden. Leaving the leftover produce to rot will result in rogue vegetables. If that isn't in the plans, consider cleaning these out of the garden and turning it over with peat moss or clean compost.
Task 6 — Tree Planting Season
Although many may not think of it, fall is an excellent time to plant trees. The temperatures and moisture in the ground provide perfect growing conditions for many tree species. Another bonus for tree planting during autumn is that many garden centers have their stock on sale, allowing you to pick up a great deal or two.
Make sure the trees are beyond the tender stage and plant them according to directions. You may also need to feed the newly planted trees or use transplanting solution for a few weeks. Burlap wrapped roots are easy to plant and some species come in biodegradable pots.
Task 7 — Protect the Tender Ones
Tender trees, shrubs and bushes need to be well protected in order to make it through the coming winter season. This includes species such as Japanese Maple and some Hydrangeas. Depending on what zone you are in and the exposure in your garden, some of your perennials may also need to be protected.
Use burlap on tall bushes and short trees. Remember to stake the wrap so that heavy winds won't catch the fabric and damage the plant through pressure. Low lying plants and shrubs that bloom from new spring growth can be protected with a mound of soil. This will keep the base warm and allow for an excellent show next spring.
Fall is not all about raking leaves. There are plenty of essential fall landscaping tasks that will help your property stay neat and tidy this winter. From planting new grass seed, trees and spring bulbs to weeding and protecting your prized plants, these tasks will provide you with a healthier landscape and cut down on the work required in the springtime.