Fall is the best time to get your lawn and landscaping ready for the next growing season. Cooler temperatures slow aboveground growth, but moist soil promotes strong root development, according to This Old House. Here are some tips to getting your lawn and garden in the best shape before the first freeze.
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Aerate the Lawn
Aerating your lawn allows water and nutrients to reach grass roots. If rainfall pools on your lawn, it's time to aerate. You can DIY with a garden fork or rent an aerator that pulls out 2-3 inch soil plugs.
Plant Shrubs and Trees
Planting new shrubs and trees in mid-August through mid-October offers many advantages, even some that outweigh spring planting. Temps are easier on new plants and fall rains help trees and shrubs establish stronger root systems. If you wait too long into the fall season, you run the risk of increased failure rates.
Trim Dead Limbs
For large tree limbs, make sure you call in a professional tree service for removal to avoid endangering yourself and your home. For smaller branches and perennials, cut cracked, loose, diseased or dead limbs close (but not flush with) the trunk.
Apply New Mulch
Give young plants a boost with a layer of fresh mulch, chopped leaves, straw or wood chips. Add this after a light frost but before a deep ground freeze. Applying a 2-4 inch layer to new plants will help keep them warm and control water runoff and erosion.
Feed Your Grass
Grass roots continue to grow until the ground temperature lowers to approximately 40 degrees, so autumn is a great time to fertilize for a stronger, greener spring turf.
Cut Back on Perennial Fertilizing
By cutting back on late summer fertilizing of perennials, you'll avoid your plants wasting energy on leaf production.
Lower You Lawn Mower's Deck Height
Grass grows more slowly in the fall but still needs to be cut regularly to prepare for the winter freeze. Lowering your mower's deck helps ward off disease and shorter grass allows leaves to blow across your yard, instead of matting it down. The recommend deck height is 1.25 height for the last mowing sessions of autumn.
Collect and Compost Leaves
Take the leaves you've raked and the leaves you've removed from your gutters and add them to your compost pile for a yield of "black gold" to nourish your lawn and garden next year. Don't have a compost pile? Here's an extremely simple and cheap, one-step DIY compost bin.
Cut Back Perennials
Trim perennial foilage down to the ground so the plant sends energy to the roots instead of dying flowers and branches. Every three years, divide perennials like daylilies, irises, and hostas.
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