As summer makes way for fall, your beautiful outside oasis needs to make a transition for hardy winter protection. Although it can be easy to think fall maintenance just means removing leaves from your lawn, don’t fall into that trap. The bulk of your spring season prep work like pruning trees and shrubs, cutting back perennials, and planting bulbs can be done in the fall. By transitioning your yard from summer to fall not only will you get to enjoy a healthy fall landscape, but you will reap the benefits come spring!
Fall is a time of unpredictable temperature fluctuations and wet weather and the inconsistency can damage the fruits of your labor, but don’t be discouraged, there are ways to protect your outdoor space. In the following section, learn tips and tricks to help you transition your yard from a summer vibe to a cozy fall landscape ready for winter.
Clean Up Around the Yard
One of the easiest, albeit time consuming, fall yard projects to do is to remove the decay around your yard. Taking away all dead or dying branches, annuals, and leaves from around your yard makes your outdoor space look better and will increase the health of your plants and lawn. Raking your lawn helps give grass maximum light and air flow, which prevents suffocation (aka, yellow and brown spots in your yard) and may lead to a healthier lawn in spring.
Not all yard waste needs to go into your garbage pile. Sort waste into compost and trash piles. The compost pile can be reused in the spring for flower beds and other areas, so make sure it’s free of insects or diseased branches.
Prune Where Necessary
The next job to tackle is pruning trees and shrubs. Pruning involves the removal of dead, damaged, or diseased branches along with ones causing structural problems. These problems can include rubbing branches or ones growing back towards the center of the tree.
As the leaves begin to fall off, it’s easier to see these types of problems. Pruning can be a bit tricky. It’s best to do your research if you do not know the exact trees, shrubs and plants you have in your yard before you begin pruning. For example, you do not want to execute non-selective pruning such as cutting a shrub to the ground or cutting back a hedge. That stimulates new growth and can freeze in the colder winter months. However, many perennials can be cut back close to the ground, insulated with mulch/compost and let be until spring.
Consider What You Want to Plant
Fall is a great planting season because the cooler weather and higher precipitation help root systems develop. It also gives plant life a longer amount of time to grow prior to summer’s hot and dry weather. If you’re thinking about putting in more perennials or new hedges, now would be a good time to do it.
This time of year is also a popular time for late season plant sales. Search around local plant nurseries or garden stores for a deal on what you want to plant. Consider planting perennials at this time, they are extremely low-maintenance and meant to be planted in the fall. Once you plant your new acquisitions, be sure to water them and continue to water even with increased precipitation.
Give Your Lawn Some TLC
Just like you, your lawn will need some help recovering from another busy summer season. Giving it some extra attention will undo damage from the effects and heat of summer. Seeding dead or bare spots and overseeding the entire lawn will give you a denser and richer grass in the next year.
Cutting your grass to two or two and a half inches will prevent matting and winter lawn disease problems. In addition, this length will help the grass make and store food for growth in warmer weather. Fall is when your lawn’s root system is most active, so giving it the right resources will support it during this time. Take this opportunity to remove weeds or apply weed killer to prevent regrowth in the spring. Pass through your garden and flower beds too for weed removal.
Service Your Equipment
Since a lot of your tools will be going into winter storage, don’t forget to inspect and repair lawn equipment and gardening tools before retiring them for the season. Sharpening blades, removing excess dirt or sorting through tools are just some of the things to do. Many homeowners shift these tools to the back of their storage areas bring winter equipment to the front.
Remember to shut off any outside water sources and lines to prevent bursting in colder temperatures. Blowing out irrigation lines with compressed air ensures all the water has been removed. A cracked sprinkler line is an avoidable expense – the damage will cost you in the long run.
Tackle Bigger Landscape Updates
If you weren’t able to get on your landscaper’s list during the summer, consider contacting them now. Many companies are less busy in the fall than in the summer, so they have more flexibility.
Your exterior matters just as much to your interior when it comes to your overall home value. A little bit of work in the fall can help you out if you’re looking to sell your property in the spring!
Fall isn’t just for raking leaves! By tackling the tasks mentioned above, your outdoor space will be set up for success.
Originally published September 2020. Updated September 2021.