When summer’s heat gives way to the cooler days of autumn, it’s time to get out and enjoy your yard again. There are many gardening tasks that are done in the fall, so let’s get busy!
1. It’s time to plant. Springtime is when most people’s minds turn to planting, but in fact, trees, shrubs, and perennials thrive when planted in the fall. Plants transplant more easily when the temperature is cooler, and the plants can focus their energy on root production so they can really take off the following spring. Don’t forget to water though—although it isn’t blazing hot, the plants still need adequate moisture to get settled in. Many garden centers have great sales this time of year, so do some shopping and planting! Of course, fall is the time to plant bulbs as well. If deer are a problem for you, stick with daffodils, alliums, and crocus. A small amount of time planting bulbs now will create a lot of beauty in the spring. For all fall planting, the rule of thumb is as long as the soil is workable (meaning, not muddy-wet or frozen solid), you can plant.
2. Feed your trees! Most trees benefit from Liquid Root Feeding in the fall, so they can have nutrients over the winter and will be ready for spring. The key nutrients required by the tree are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
3. Give your turf a little TLC. This time of year is perfect for focusing on a few simple tasks that will have your lawn looking amazing next season. Aerating is a great way to reduce compaction and allow air, water, and essential nutrients to get to the roots, resulting in a more vigorous lawn. You can ask your turf care company to schedule an aeration service, or rent an aerator and do it yourself. And don’t worry, those little plugs left behind won’t last long—they’ll work themselves back into the lawn in no time. Now is also a great time for seeding your lawn. If you have any bare or weak spots, rake them out, top-dress with soil, and sprinkle the seed on top. Be sure to water it daily until the seeds germinate. You can also rent a slit-seeder for larger projects. Finally, late fall is time for a slow-release turf fertilizer. This keeps your lawn healthy over the winter and your lawn will be the first in the neighborhood to green up next March.
4. Prune your trees! Prune out deadwood and crossing branches to have better structure to withstand winter wind and snow weight. This will also allow more sunlight and better air flow through the trees, which can help keep them healthy.
5. Mulch your leaves. Speaking of trees, you may be quick to rake every falling leaf off yours, but actually one of the best things you can do for your lawn and your trees is to mulch those leaves and return them to the lawn. Many lawnmowers have mulching kits, which allow the grass and leaves to essentially be cut and chopped up very finely so that you can simply leave the debris where it lays. This returns essential (and free!) nutrients to the soil to feed turf and tree roots.
6. Don’t be too quick to cut down your perennials! If you are trying to attract wildlife to your yard and provide some beautiful winter interest, one of the easiest things you can do is… put down the pruners. Our local bird population will thank you for providing them with seeds to eat and places to hide during the tough winter months. Try leaving your plants up until late winter, especially if you have anything planted with a seedhead or berries. And if you don’t have any of these plants, remember, fall is a great time to plant! Why not add some coneflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed susans, hollies, viburnums, or serviceberries to your landscape?
7. Extend the growing season. It may feel that the growing season is winding down for the year, but you can easily swap out your summer annual flowers with cold-tolerant varieties, and have blooms and color in your yard until the New Year. Pansies, violas, dianthus, cabbage, kale, and snapdragons can take a frost and still look great. In the vegetable garden, your dying tomato plants make way for spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli, and carrots. Radishes only take three weeks from the day you sow them to the day you eat them! Plant garlic in the fall for a spicy, flavorful harvest next July.
8. Mulch around your trees! Provide a nice blanket for your trees this winter. Place 1-2” of mulch around your trees to reduce weed competition and hold in moisture.
9. Water, Water, Water to help reduce stress going into the winter.