Fall Gardener Checklist
Even though the weather is cooling and the daylight is dwindling, there is a great deal of gardening still to be done. In fact, fall is prime time to prepare your yard for the coming growing season next spring. This is because cooler temperatures slow aboveground growth, and removing spent stems, dead branches, and heavy leaf cover at this time will protect your plants’ overall health. Here is a checklist of things you may want your gardener to attend to in the fall season.
- Aerate the lawn: When lawns see a lot of foot traffic, the soil can become compacted and compressed. This is why it’s important to have your lawn aerated in the fall, so that water and nutrients will be able to reach the roots all winter long. The soil plugs can be left where they are, as they will break down naturally by spring.
- Fertilize the lawn: Grass roots actually continue to grow until ground temperatures get down to around 40 degrees, so fall is a good time for feeding the lawn. Generally, a high phosphorous fertilizing mix (12-25-12) is recommended for fall fertilization to encourage roots and the turf to green up earlier come spring.
- Rake leaves and clean up dead branches and rotting fruits and vegetables: When left to rot, fallen tree leaves can suffocate the lawn, which is why fall leaf raking is so important. Likewise, debris should be removed from garden beds, particularly any diseased foliage that can hurt overwintering plants. Cleaning up debris is especially important around the base of roses, as fallen rose foliage can give diseases a safe place to overwinter and create problems for the upcoming year.
- Amend garden soil: After a season of growth, garden soil can be quite depleted, which is why it should be amended every fall. To prepare for the coming season, the soil should be tilled and then amended with some kind of compost.
- Water thoroughly: Every garden, lawn, and landscaping feature should be given a good drink in the fall. This is particularly important for trees, whose roots need plenty of moisture to make it through the upcoming months.
- Mulch to maintain soil quality and protect perennials from frost: Following the first light frost (but before the ground freezes), garden best should be mulched. This offers several benefits, as it keeps new plantings warm and controls water runoff and soil erosion.
- Plant new shrubs: For many types of shrubs and in most climates, planting in the early fall is recommended. In fact, fall planting gives the plants a head start at establish roots in the cool, moist soil that’s prevalent at this time. This way, the shrub will be much stronger come spring.
With a little attention from your gardener, your yard and gardens can be clean, neat, and ready for winter. Fall preparation tasks are particularly important, as they can have a notable impact on garden success in the coming year.