Days and nights are getting cooler, warm cozy sweaters are coming out of their boxes and fall decor is starting to fill the shelves. We’re here to make fall cleanup simple with a guideline for getting your garden and lawn winter-ready this fall!
We’ve also compiled an easy to-do list for you to print and check off as you go.
Easy lawn maintenance
Our lawns are a cool season grass and need proper care during this time of year as they are just finishing their growing season. Here a few easy steps you can do with your lawn to have it in tip top shape from season to season.
- now is a great time to pull out any weeds that have been left there from the summer. Try to get as much of the root as possible as many weeds can regrow if a piece of the main root, the thick tap root, is left. By pulling what you can now your lawn will look fantastic in spring
- to rake or not to rake, that is the question. Leaves can be beneficial to your lawn so you don’t really have to rake up every last one of them. If the leaves have any spots on them it is best to remove as much as you can and dispose. If the leaves on the lawn do not have any spots you can lightly rake these up. If you leave too many leaves it can smother your lawn. Rake up some leaves and then use a mulching lawn mower to shred these leaves. You can use this leaf mulch on your lawn as it will become great organic material. Need or want to get out almost all the leaves off your lawn and easily into a bag? Try putting a small tarp down and raking onto the tarp. You can then fold two sides together and pour the leaves into a compost or bag
- remove excess thatch. While some thatch is healthy for your lawn, a half inch or less, excess can be detrimental. It can provide homes to bugs like chinch bugs and stop water and fertilizer from reaching roots properly. Use a stiff rake or a thatching rake to get out some of this thatch. If thatch is really thick you may want to consider aerating your lawn.
- continue to mow grass as it actively grows and mow high. For your final last mow you should aim for a height of around 2½ inches
- fertilize your lawn with a good slow release fertilizer meant for fall or winter
- topdress lawns with a compost rich soil and overseed your lawn; fill in any bare areas with new seed
Let’s hit the garden
There is a large debate on whether to prune, rake up leaves and cut back perennials in the fall. To be completely honest with you both sides have their merits and working in your garden this fall is not do or die to your plants, but it will definitely give you a head start in spring, and your plants will appreciate the care. By yearly maintenance in a garden, spring and fall, you will be much happier with the state of your garden as it matures.
- rake out leaves from your garden as they can be a great place for bugs,fungal spores and a cozy home for rodents like mice. If you have had no issues with bugs in your gardens or fungus on leaves you do not have to be diligent in raking up your leaves. Leaving a few leaves in your garden is fine, a light covering can even benefit your garden by insulating plant roots and decomposing to feed your garden next spring. If any leaves seemed marred or have spots it is best to rake these up and throw them out
- pull up and dispose of any weeds or annuals in your garden. You can compost annuals if the leaves seem healthy but is best to dispose of weeds if you do not want the seeds in your compost pile
- for perennial flowering plants, anything that cannot be described as a woody shrub, it is best to prune based on the quality of the plant. If leaves are marred by black spots, powdery mildew, or anything else that has you worried it is best to cut these back within 6-8″ of the ground and dispose of the leaves. For plants that flowered in spring or summer you can prune off the flower and flower stem leaving the healthy leaves. If you do this after they’re done blooming you may be lucky and get a second flowering in fall. If they bloom again just remove any spent blooms. For later flowering perennials like anemones, rudbeckia and asters you can leave them to provide seeds for overwintering birds. If you choose to cut back all your perennials make sure not to go any further than 6-8″ from the ground
- prune back any bushes/trees that are larger than you would like.You should remove all dead and damaged branches as they can become a haven for pest and disease. As a good rule of thumb 1/3 of a branch is a heavy cutting; don’t be scared to cut back 1/3 of a branch as it is not detrimental. We like to prune branch by branch as you can get a good feel of the shape of the plant this way. After removing any dead or damaged branches prune out some growth in the middle for air circulation, this will also give room for new growth in spring. Then go ahead and cut back the height of any branches you would like. You will be much happier pruning shrubs yearly as the quality of growth and blooms will increase with proper pruning. Keep in mind some plants can be pruned back in spring while others should only be pruned in fall. Many plants produce blooms on the previous seasons growth, if you cut back these types of flowering shrubs in spring you will be cutting off their blooms for that season. It is best to prune these types of shrubs within a few weeks of their bloom finishing. Here is a quick list of the most popular types of flowering shrubs that need to be cut back in fall:
- Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
- Broom (Cytisus)
- Flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa)
- Hydrangea macrophylla
- Kerria japonica
- Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
- Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
- Purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus X cistena)
- Spiraea species***
- Weigela hybrids
- Witch hazel (Hamamelis)
- ***Most Spiraea flower on previous seasons growth, some flower on new growth and should be pruned in the dormant season, these include; S. albiflora (Japanese white spiraea), S. bullata ‘Crispleaf’, S. X bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’, ‘Crispa’, ‘Flaming Mound’, ‘Froebeli’, ‘Gold Flame’, ‘Goldmound’, S. japonica, and S. X margaritae.
- protect any tender shrubs or trees for winter. Newly planted cedars or tender trees like Japanese Maples do best with a helping hand for their first few winters. Burlap placed around the shrub or tree can help keep drying winter winds from damaging your plants and mulch, either wood chips or clean leaves, placed around the trunk can help them overwinter. If you do this remember to move the mulch from the trunk base in early spring. You may also want to protect trunks of trees with plastic tree spirals made to keep rabbits from chewing on the bottom bark
For more information on winter protecting trees and shrubs check out this article:
- now that your garden is nice and clean you can plant any spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffs or crocus
- if we have customers coming in with tree damage, or even worse tree death, in spring the most common cause is winter dehydration. It is best to give your gardens and trees water well into October. For trees, especially evergreens, it is best to give them a good heavy soaking right before ground freeze; this way you ensure they will have plenty of water to drink up
- if you have a veggie garden it is best to pull up plants and dispose all rotten or forgotten about vegetables. You can also put manure into your veggie garden and lightly till it in so your beds are ready for spring. If you have fruit trees make sure to clean up any rotten fruit from the ground as this is a great place for pests and rodents. Protect fruit tree trunks with specialty plastic tree spirals as we find bunnies and deer seem to be attracted to the bark of fruit trees
- You may now step back and look at your finished and winter prepared gardens….but all is not done. Before you pack away any tools it is best to clean any you have used this season like pruners and shovels to prevent rust and damage. You can clean garden tool blades with vegetable oil to help keep them maintained from year to year. Your pocket book will thank you in the seasons to come if you keep clean tools
Last but not least bring any tropicals you want to try and keep through the winter before the nights get too cool. It’s best to spray your plants the day or night before you bring them in with insecticidal soap(top and bottom of leaves and branches) to make sure you aren’t bringing in any aphids or other common pests.
And Bob’s your uncle, that’s all I have to say about that.