The nights are getting colder and the air has that refreshing crisp in it. It is the time for sweaters and jackets to keep you warm. Once again the seasons are changing and trees are showing their beautiful array of fall colors. Autumn never ceases to amaze me with it spectacular colors that seem to go beyond an artistic pallet. It is a time of harvest and coming together to share the years hard work from our crops and gardens. Its also time for a fall cleanup.
Autumn is a beautiful time of year and we should all enjoy it. However, there is still work to be done! A good fall cleanup is perhaps one of the most important steps in preparing your lawn and garden for the spring. In this article we will pass on some very important musts and some time saving tips so you can use and share with others.
Don’t leave the leaves
The leaves are a sight to see on the trees during their color change. But watching them fall to the ground may leave property owners feeling that there is a long road of work ahead of them. Not many people enjoy spending hours and hours of raking leaves and bagging them during the fall cleanup process. But it is an important step in the fall cleanup process because once the snow flies, an unraked layer of leaves will get matted down over your lawn and smother it all winter long. This will result in dead patches and give rodents a cozy home to live in.
*Tip* Instead of waiting for all of the leaves to drop off your trees try mulching small amounts using your mulching lawn mower when you mow your lawn. Doing this weekly will make the work seem lighter when it is time to rake. Plus small amounts of mulched leaves will add nutrients to your soil making your lawn healthier.
Feed the Green
Your lawn is still using energy during the cool nights before winter. And what better way to show your lawn your appreciation for looking its best during the grueling summer then to feed it. Apply a slow release fertilizer to build back up its nutrients and prepare it for the long and cold winter. This is also a very good time to remove all weeds from your lawn as well to give a better start in the spring. Don’t add commercial fertilizer to any other garden plants (except bulbs) or you may spur growth too late in the season.
Heavy traffic throughout the summer can cause soil to become compacted. Perforating your lawn with small holes helps reduce compaction and lets water, air and fertilizer get down to the soil, which strengthens the turfs root structure.
*Tip* For smaller yards, a manual aerating tool that removes plugs from the turf while you step should be just fine. If you’ve got a larger yard, consider renting a power aerator or calling Blue Mountain Four Season for help.
Compost and Re-Use
Don’t get rid of all of your fallen leaves they make for attractive mulch in your garden. Collect leaves and put them through a mulching machine (if you don’t have one you can find them at most hardware stores for about $100 – $200) and add them to your garden. You can also use your push lawnmower by running over the leaves and bagging them. Not only does this provide a beautiful mulch but adds vital nutrients to your soil making your plants more vibrant.
*Tip* One way to turn autumn leaves into nutritious compost is to gather them in a big pile surrounded by chicken wire in a corner of yard where they can be left for a year or two to break down into rich crumbly goodness. Don’t compost any plants or leaves that look diseased. Throw them out. You will only contaminate next year’s gardens.
Water your trees?
Water any trees and shrubs that still have their leaves because they are more than likely dry from the past several months of drought. This is especially true of young trees planted less than three years ago and street trees, which endure extra punishment from traffic, pollution, and paving. Though your town may plant street trees in front of your house, it’s up to you to water them when rain is lacking. Leave a hose dripping by the trunk for several hours so the moisture can sink in. This is an important fall cleanup task.
Also, water your evergreens each week that there’s no rain. Rhododendrons and pine trees will continue to lose moisture from their leaves and needles all winter. So help the roots stock up on water now. Wrapping small evergreens with burlap will especially serve to protect them from browsing deer and from harsh winter winds. However, if your trees are near salted winter roads avoid wrapping your trees in burlap. The salt will soak into the burlap causing direct exposure to the host plant. In this case try making burlap screens instead.
*Tip* Don’t plant evergreens this late in the year, but feel free to plant deciduous trees and shrubs once they’ve dropped their leaves and gone dormant. Take advantage of late season sales at your local garden center.
Once the frost hits, it is usually the end of the road for annuals. They can easily be removed by pulling them by the base of the stem. This is also a good opportunity to remove any weeds from your garden and cultivate the soil. You can compost all of the annuals you pulled out…but make sure to watch for diseased plants, just toss them into the trash.
Clean out your vegetable garden. Fruits and vegetables left in the garden can decompose all winter long, and provide comfy living for insect eggs. Gross? Not as gross as they’ll be in the spring…well at least you won’t have to mash your potatoes. Now’s the time to get rid of diseased plants, too, but keep them out of the compost pile so the problem doesn’t spread to the rest of your garden next year.
Spring is just around the Corner
Fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips. But pay attention to the weather in your area; planting too early can cause bulbs to sprout before winter, and planting them too late can mean their roots don’t have enough time to develop before the ground freezes.
*Tip* Make sure to plant the bulb 2 – 2 1/2 times deeper than the size of the bulb. So if your bulb is a small 1 inch bulb, you would plant the bulb 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. If your bulb is a larger 3 inch bulb, you will want to plant the bulb 6 to 7 1/2 inches deep.
Get ready for next Spring
Give your tools and equipment some love as part of your fall cleanup. When it comes time to put away the backyard tools for the season, don’t just shove them into the corner. Spend a few minutes wiping them down and removing debris and dirt, then apply a light layer of oil to keep them from rusting over the winter. That way they’ll be all set to go again come spring. And as for your lawnmower, if you are not going to drain the fuel from the tank and carburetor make sure to add some fuel stabilizer to the gas. Doing this will prevent your gas from going bad and keep the carburetor in good working order.
Fall is here and by applying some of these best practices you’ll be in great shape for the spring…just as long as we make it through the winter.
From our lawn to yours,