By Clara Beaufort (Founder and CEO of GardenerGigs.com)
One of the great things about fall is that it’s the end of the summer heat and all the outdoor chores required. But there’s still plenty to do to get ready for the winter so that come spring, you’ll have a lush lawn and gorgeous garden, ready to bloom.
Whether you have a flower or vegetable garden, a lawn or any combination of the three, you have a list of fall yard maintenance chores to get to.
● End the mowing season –– Keep mowing the lawn until the grass has stopped growing. Use your mower’s mulching feature so that the grass can be chopped up finer and distributed about the lawn. Lower the height of your mower’s blade. A shorter cut will help the soil dry out faster in the spring.
● Compost — Pulling up your garden will give you lots of leaves and plant material for your compost pile. Mix green and dry materials with a shovelful of soil and an optional handful of fertilizer. Sprinkle with water weekly if there is no rain. You’ll have compost by spring. Toss spent food materials in there, too, such as egg shells, coffee grounds and celery tops. It puts these items to good use and keeps them out of the landfill.
● Rake the leaves — Leaving them on the grass prevents the grass from getting the sunshine and air it needs. Add the leaves to your compost pile.
● Fertilize — Two applications of fertilizer are recommended for most types of grass. The first should be applied around Labor Day, and the second when you finish mowing for the season. Nitrogen is important to your lawn’s basic needs. A soil test will tell you if you need phosphorus or potassium.
● Seed the lawn — If you think your lawn isn’t thick enough or has bare spots, overseed it in the fall. Cover the seeds with straw or mulch to protect them from hungry birds.
● Aerate the lawn — Fall is an excellent time to aerate your lawn, which will give the roots better access to air and water. You can rent aeration machines.
● Plant bulbs — Fall is the time to plan for next spring’s tulips, daffodils, narcissus and hyacinth. Garlic — also a bulb — is great to plant in the fall, and it’s a natural insect (and vampire) repellant.
● Mulch — Give your flower beds a nice, thick layer of mulch to protect the roots over the winter.
● Harvest — It’s time to reap all the veggies you sowed during the spring and summer months that you haven’t yet harvested. Make a list of what did well and what didn’t so you can plan for next year.
● Divide and cut back perennials — Dead leaves and stems should be removed. Perennials that are overgrown should be divided and spread out — or given to interested friends. This is best done about a month before a hard frost.
● Plant cool-season annuals — Your summer annuals should be about spent, so it’s time to replace them with some fall annuals, including pansies, chrysanthemums, cabbage and kale. You can also use these to fill in spaces between your divided perennials.
● Control broadleaf weeds — September and October are an excellent time to tackle those pesky weeds, such as dandelion and creeping Charlie. Most weed killers work best between 50 and 80 degrees, and the plants are still growing, so the weed killer gets distributed throughout the plant. Always follow the instructions on the label of any pesticide you use.
Fall is a bittersweet time of cooling temperatures and harvest festivals. It’s also a great time to prepare your lawn and gardens for the coming growing season and start planning next year’s crops.
Clara Beaufort is a retired small business owner who created GardenerGigs to connect local gardeners with those in need of plant care help.