Fall is a season not only for harvest but also time to get your yard ready for a long winter’s nap. With snow having already fallen in some parts of the country, you can bet that cold winter winds and ice are not far behind.
Are you ready? Me neither. Not to worry, though. I’ve organized a to-do list of those yard work and yard-related house-tidying chores that we’ve both been dreading as we get ready for fall weather.
1: Mow your lawn one last time but set the cutting height at 2 inches. This way, the grass can store food for growth but not get too long that snow and ice will mat it down and cause disease and fungus problems.
2: Mulch grass clippings into your flower and shrub beds. This will help protect shrub and perennial roots from heavy freeze damage and store water. Also collect the seedheads of flowers you’ll want to plant in the spring.
3: Mulch your leaves. I prefer to mow over my leaves to mulch them into the lawn. If there’s excess, I put it in the compost pile. If you don’t have a similar option, remember that many municipalities now collect yard waste and use it for their composting programs
4: Seed the bare spots. Grass can establish itself often more rapidly during cool fall temperatures. It also cuts down on watering time.
5: Weed and Feed: Fertilize your lawn using a mix that’s correct for your soil lawn type. Most “winterizing” fertilizers are designed for grass varieties in the southern part of the country and contain higher percentages of phosphorus and potassium and lower levels of nitrogen. Fall is also the best time apply herbicides to weeds since they are busy trying to store food in their roots. Kill the roots and you kill the whole plant. By carefully using weed killers in fall to take advantage of plant metabolism, you can use an herbicide more efficiently. You’ll use less, do less harm to the environment, and save more money.
6: Do not prune bushes or trees in the fall. The plant is going dormant, and it will not be able to heal in time before ice gets into the wound and causes further damage that allows bacteria or fungus to move in. Apple and pear trees, however, should be pruned in mid-winter (around February) to better effect its development and encourage fruit yield. However, it’s still a good idea to remove any dead limbs. Otherwise, a winter storm could remove a branch for you but deposit it in a neighbor’s windshield.
7: In the north, set out your cold weather crops in your cold frames (lettuces, broccoli, etc.) If you don’t have a cold frame, learn how to make one by re-purposing old wooden window sashes. (Warning: some of THESE are gorgeous!)
8: If you have shrubs planted along the front of your home’s foundation, clean out leaves and other debris that may have collected there during the summer. This will encourage air flow and reduce the chance of moisture and mildew infiltrating your home through unseen gaps in your house’s mudsill, joist band, siding, or windows. It will also help prevent rot.
9: Leaves and other debris can trap moisture and cause rot so clean out from beneath decks and porches. Also hose your AC’s outside condenser unit. Do not cover the unit but shield the fan housing by placing a piece of 1/2″ plywood over the top fan venting and hold it in place with a couple of bricks.
10: Dig up any tree saplings you discover growing along your home’s foundation. If you don’t do it now when they’re small then by next fall, they’ll be much bigger with deeper roots that might begin to slowly damage your home’s foundation.
11: Clean your rain gutters and downspouts, using the PiViT Ladder Helper and the PiViT Ladder Tool from www.provisiontools.com and make sure they drain away from your home. Also check your soffits and gable vents for any holes that animals might crawl into and close these up with sheet metal or 1/2″ hardware cloth.
Now that you have an idea what you might need to do, it’s time to get started. Pick a weekend or two for getting the yard work done, and you’ll be surprised how fast it will go by just having a plan to follow. In no time at all, your yard will be ready for fall weather and the soon-approaching long winter’s nap. Afterwards, you can relax and take one, too.