Fall Landscaping & Lawn Care
Recent weather fluctuations have driven home the point for me that fall is definitely upon us which means that winter and those dreaded four-letter words, cold and snow, are soon to follow. However, we can hope that those two things are still more than a few weeks away and enjoy what is left of the fall season. One way to do just that is to start preparing for next spring in the yard and garden. To help you get a head-start, here are a couple of tips for fall garden maintenance and clean-up.
In the vegetable garden- fall is a great time to add some amendments. After your vegetables have finished producing, it is time to put the garden to bed for the winter. If your plants are not diseased, feel free to leave them on the surface of the garden and till them in. Or, you may choose to pull them up and add them to the compost pile, either option is perfectly acceptable. If you have access to some well-composted manure or have a compost pile of your own, you may consider adding some to the garden prior to doing your tillage. Or, you may choose to just add the compost and let it sit without doing any tillage. That is o.k. too but you will definitely want to till it in next spring. Another option that can help add amendments to garden soil is to start a "green manure" crop this fall. Planting something like winter rye, oats, or legumes like peas will not only help retain topsoil, but in the case of the legumes, can add nitrogen to your soil. The one drawback with the green manures is that, you have to incorporate them into the soil next spring and there is always the chance that they may re-grow and end up being weeds the following season.
In the lawn-The two best things that can be done this time of year to help your lawn survive the winter and be ready to grow next spring are fertilization and aeration. Not necessarily in that order. Fall fertilization with a slow-release nitrogen product will help to encourage root growth this fall so that next spring when it warms up, the grass will be ready to go. Aerating a lawn helps combat issues like compaction and allows for more air to get down to the root zone. Oxygen is one of the most important elements that roots need to thrive. A good, deep watering of the root zone never hurts either. And when you are ready to make that final mowing, you might want to consider actually lowering the mowing height from what you normally mow the lawn at. This is not to suggest that scalping the lawn is a good thing but if there is not as much re-growth before the snow falls, there is less chance for the development of snow mold next spring.
In landscape beds-As flowers start to fade, it is a good idea to start to trim back spindly stalks, get rid of dead flowers, and prune out any diseased or damaged flowering plants and shrub and tree branches. If you have some more tender plants, like roses for example, you may want to consider cutting them back to a manageable size and mulching over them to protect them over the winter. As a matter of fact, applying a fresh layer of mulch before the ground freezes helps not only to conserve soil moisture, but it also alleviates some of the issues associated with fluctuations in soil temperature.
Trees-As mentioned above, pruning can be done in the fall. Really, you should wait until the trees are dormant (have lost all of their leaves) so most people wait until early spring, when the temperatures are a little more conducive to being outside, but if there are a few nice days and the trees have reached dormancy, there is nothing saying that you have to wait. Probably of more importance, and especially for evergreen trees, is to give the root zone a really good deep soaking of water. This helps prevent desiccation over the winter as winds and direct sunlight tend to zap moisture out of the trees. This deep watering should be held off until after the trees have gone dormant, so waiting until after leaves have fallen off of deciduous trees but before the ground freezes is a good practice. The cold, windy winter that we experienced in 2013 and early 2014 was not very kind to trees and landscape plants. Those factors coupled with a lack of snow cover caused many trees to die or severely delay leafing out. Then, this spring was wet and cold which created a perfect environment for many diseases to establish themselves in our landscape. Anything that you can do to help your tree(s) make it through the winter will be of great benefit next spring. Especially if this winter and next spring are similar to last year's. It's probably a good idea to wait until next spring to fertilize trees as well. Fertilizing now may actually encourage growth and not allow trees to properly "harden off" before winter.
Most people think of fall as a time to reap what you sew, sit back and wait for next spring to come; which is a perfectly acceptable practice as well. However, doing a few of these things may make next spring's chores a little bit easier. One thing that I should point out is that, when doing pruning, clipping, cutting etc... it is perfectly fine to add these clippings to a compost pile. However, if you are rouging out diseased branches and plants, they should be thrown in the garbage or burned. Many of our plant diseases are capable of over-wintering on plant material and unless the compost pile is closely monitored, it does not usually get warm enough to kill them.
As always, if you have any questions about the tips mentioned above, or if you want more detail about the whats and whys of the suggestions mentioned, feel free to give me a call at 433-1206 or send an email to [email protected]