Falling leaves and cooling temperatures convince many gardeners to hang up their gloves for the season. But even into the later fall months, there are opportunities to stay active in the yard while sprucing up the lawn and garden beds.
One benefit is appearance: Fall cleanup tasks can help your yard look neater heading into the winter months. Better yet, these tasks can help add nutrients to the soil, which may contribute to a healthier lawn and vegetation in the spring. Here are a few simple end-of-year lawn maintenance items you can complete in the later fall months and the benefits they provide.
Four End-of-Season Fall Lawn Care Tips:
- Prune trees and shrubs. Once trees and shrubs have gone dormant in the fall, and trees have dropped their leaves, most can be pruned as a way to improve their shape and appearance. Fall is also a good time to trim or prune dead, diseased or damaged branches, or any branches that pose a danger. You can also prune crossed branches, upright shoots on trunks, or shoots that have developed in low areas or at the ground. When pruning shrubs and trees in fall, it’s best to prune only on sunny, dry days, as this helps to prevent disease and also allows the cut area to heal faster. One plant that should not be pruned in the fall, however, is hydrangea, as most varieties bloom on past growth.
- Aerate the lawn. It’s a good idea to aerate your lawn every one to three years to reduce soil compaction, which makes it difficult for air, water and nutrients to reach grass roots. Aerating also promotes deeper root growth, which makes your lawn thicker and less vulnerable to drought. If you’re unsure whether to aerate your lawn, simply dig up a small square of grass from your lawn and look for signs of thatch; check to see if grass roots are well-established – meaning deeper than 2 inches into the soil. When aerating, it’s recommended to use a core aerator rather than a spike aerator, since it removes pieces of soil versus punching holes into the ground, which may contribute to additional soil compaction. The fall is a good time to aerate, as this is a period when encouraging oxygen, water and fertilizer to nourish the root system, rather than the foliage, can help to make the lawn more resilient.
- Fertilize your lawn. The fall is an ideal time to fertilize your lawn to help provide nutrients and encourage a stronger root system. Apply a slow-release formula during late fall and after aerating, using a walk-behind spreader for best results. This also helps to ensure an even application. Be sure to distribute fertilizer evenly, as over-fertilization can be damaging and cause fertilizer burn.
- Clean up leaves and debris from the lawn and garden beds. Tidy up your lawn and garden beds by raking leaves – or mulching them with your grass clippings during a final mow. But, if you have an excessive amount of leaves, it’s best to rake or blow them from the lawn rather than mulching them and allowing them to remain there. This is also a good time to remove fallen leaves from flower beds, shrubs and areas with groundcover. You can use the chopped leaves as mulch around plants, or layer them between planting rows in the vegetable garden. You may also want to protect bulb plants and perennials, or any that are susceptible to the cold, with a layer of mulch or compost.
Tackling these end-of-year fall lawn maintenance tasks will not only help your yard to have a neater appearance during the fall and winter season, but can also help your yard and garden beds withstand colder temperatures and spring back to life in the months to come.