The gentle sound of falling leaves on the lawn can only mean one thing: it’s time to start preparing your home for the cool season. Depending on the type of plants and herbs you have in your countryside, it can mean doing a few small jobs, or it can spell out a whole to-do list. Here is a short list of ways to prepare your lawn and garden for fall.
Treat dead leaves
One of the biggest fall chores for most homeowners has to do with all those crispy leaves getting everywhere. For some people, raking and bagging is the right answer, but it’s not ideal for everyone. After all, the leaves are just nutrients waiting to be used.
“Instead of raking the leaves, try shredding them with your lawnmower. The shredded leaves will add nutrients and organic matter to your soil,” advises Eric DeBoer, agronomist at Simple Lawn Solutions in Centerton, Arkansas. “Don’t let leaves accumulate on the lawn canopy, they will block sunlight and harbor disease.”
Another way to use the leaves is to apply them to trees, landscape perennials, and vegetable beds. If you can score extras from your neighbors – who will almost certainly happily part with sacks and bags – you’ll be able to grow even more plants.
“Wood crops like fruit trees love to wrap their roots in mushrooms,” says Alex Melvin, founder of Austin, Texas-based landscaping company Permacultured. “Leaf mold is an easy way to give these trees what they want. To prepare leaf mold, gardeners can gather the leaves into large plastic bags, poke holes all over the bags, and spray the leaves. Bags should be placed in a shaded part of the property and sprayed every two weeks. After a few months, the fungi will begin to colonize and the leaf mold will be ready to be placed around the fruit trees.
Prepare your lawn
With the leaves out of the way, you can tackle all the care your lawn might need come fall. This varies depending on the type of grass you have, but if you have cool season grasses, fall is a good time to do a lot of heavy lifting like aeration and thatching.
“Cool-season lawn grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and fine fescue are best dethatched in the fall,” DeBoer said. “Extensively dethatching cool season lawns too late in the spring can weaken them just before the start of the summer stress season. Aeration of cool season lawns can occur in early spring or fall.
You can rent tools to aerate and dethatch your lawn, which is a simple but time-consuming process for homeowners. Just be sure to do these jobs while the grass is still actively growing and give the lawn time to heal from the necessary damage these techniques inflict before it freezes over.
Cover your plants
Perennial plantings should be put to bed at the end of the growing season, to better protect them from the freezing temperatures ahead. Most gardeners choose to use organic mulches because they break down slowly and add nutrients to the soil, but not all plants can benefit from the same type of mulch. “Trees and woody crops (non-herbaceous perennials) generally grow best in fungal-dominant mulches,” Melvin said. “The best mulches for plants in this category are wood chips and bark mulch. Adding leaf mold is also a great way to start the decomposition of woody mulches.
“Herbaceous perennials, on the other hand, often do better with non-woody mulches which tend to be more bacterial. Since herbaceous perennials typically die back during the winter, the mulch cannot be so heavy that it blocks new growth in the spring. In my experience, straw builds soil faster than almost any other mulch in these situations.
It’s also a great time to add compost to empty vegetable beds or to plant cover crops that can help hold the soil in place through winter and early spring. Bury them in the spring, while they are still growing, for better nutrient return to your garden.
Prepare your garden equipment for the off season
Of course, plants aren’t the only things homeowners will have to deal with as the days get colder and the nights get longer. Lawn equipment also needs care before winter sets in.
“It’s best to give your mower a good clean in the fall before you put it away so you don’t give rodents an opportunity to create an unwanted home,” said Eric Halfman, lawn and garden expert at John Deere in the Dodge County, Wisconsin. . “Serving your mower yourself or at a local dealership in the fall is also a great idea to avoid the spring rush that happens every year. Dealerships usually have maintenance kits you can purchase so that you can do the work yourself.Or an even easier option is to have the dealer do the work for you.Your mower should be serviced once a year for best results.
Make a list and follow through
Fall is a busy time in the lawn and garden for many homeowners, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Once you’ve figured out what needs to be done, make a list of small tasks that can each be completed in a few hours, then rank them in order of completion. For example, you may want to aerate and dethatch the lawn earlier, mulch next, and then take care of garden equipment in late fall.
Getting everything done in a timely manner is critical to the success of your garden. Having a system will make things much faster and easier this fall.