Homeowners can, perhaps, be forgiven for treating fall yard and garden maintenance as an afterthought. After all, they spend the spring and summer keeping the lawn cut, the bushes trimmed, the garden weeded, and all that equipment in good working order. Even the most avid gardeners are ready to put the hoes, pruning shears and wheelbarrows away for the year once the leaves start to fall. The good news is that once you’ve taken care of a few basic tasks, you can look forward to another fruitful growing season next year.
One of the most important jobs to be done in your garden is clearing it of waste material (i.e. dead plants, leaves, etc.), which you can use as mulch material. The success of any garden depends on the health of its soil, meaning its organic matter and nutrient levels. Compost is the best way to augment your garden area’s organic matter content. Fortunately, autumn is the best time to “feed” it with nutrient-rich compost material. Once applied, a layer of compost sets in motion a chemical reaction that breaks this raw, waste material down into water-soluble nutrients.
You also need to fertilize your lawn as well, beginning in early September. Remember, your lawn is just emerging from the punishing heat of a long summer and, in many parts of the country, it may also be suffering the effects of drought. Go over it with a fertilizer using a nitrogen-phosporus-potassium (N-P-K) formula of 20-8-8. It’s important to follow this with another application in October and November, using a 13-25-12 formula. And don’t forget to fertilize shrubs and trees as well, using a slow-release nitrogen compound. Another important step is to aerate your lawn, which allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate to the grassroots through small perforations in the soil.
Weeds and bald spots
Even the best cared for lawns are vulnerable to imperfections such as bald patches and weeds that can be next to impossible to eradicate. Bald spots are common if you live in an arid part of the country, but they can appear anywhere. Use a garden rake to loosen the soil and apply a mixture that includes grass seed, fertilizer and mulch material. Water the treated spot extensively, and continue to do so every other day for about two weeks.
Fall is also the time to do something about that bumper crop of weeds that’s taken over your lawn. If you don’t want to see them again come spring, act now while they’re absorbing all the food sources they can. Most herbicide companies suggest laying down a weed killer in early fall before the weather starts to cool off for good. The best time is when temperatures are still above 60 degrees.
Trees and shrubs
Cold weather can be damaging to shrubs and many trees. Mulching is an effective way to insulate root systems and protect them from being damaged by frigid temperatures. Mulch is an organic substance that covers the soil surface and shields roots from extremes of temperature and drought, and supplies plants with nutrients. There are many kinds of mulching material, including dry grass clippings, composted leaf material, hardwood chips, pine needles and animal manure, just to name a few. Mulch also prevents erosion and water runoff during the wet winter season.
When it comes to your yard and garden, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. With a little work and minimal expense in the fall, you can expect to reap the benefits of a healthy garden and a beautiful lawn next year, and for years to come.
Another option to create a beautiful, low-maintenance garden is to simply replace non-native plants or grass with decorative pieces such as stones, gnomes, and little homes. Often, this is a one-time investment and will save you money on your water bill and time, as native plants will require less care.
Guest post by Clara from gardenergigs.com