After a long, hot summer, fall is so welcome. We look forward to cooler temperatures and the sound of crunchy leaves under our feet. But the change of seasons also brings with it typical yard chores — all a labor of love, of course. The bonus of following through is that if you take care of a few things now, you’re more likely to have a gorgeous lawn and garden in the spring.
The most important thing to do in the fall is removing leaves so your lawn isn’t smothered. If raking seems like too much work, there are easier options. A leaf blower will make quick work of those suckers, and some blowers will even vacuum up the leaves and chop them into mulch to add to your compost pile. If you want to make your life even easier, just mow with a mulching blade and allow the chopped leaves to fall between the blades of grass.
Keep in mind that your lawn needs attention, too. Continue to mow until the growing stops, and when it’s time for the last cut, lower the blade and cut it shorter. This helps the sun and air get to the roots over the winter.
Fall is also a good time to aerate your lawn. Aeration helps even more oxygen get to the roots, especially if your lawn has a thick layer of thatch, or ground cover under the grass. Lawns with clay soil or heavy foot traffic tend to become compacted and need aeration the most. You can rent an aeration machine at most lawn and garden centers.
Fall is also a good time to fertilize your lawn because it gives the fertilizer time to do its job — feed and strengthen your lawn’s roots over the winter. Fertilizer will have three numbers on it that tell you the amount of minerals in it. It goes like this: nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium. Nitrogen promotes foliage growth (in your lawn that means the blades of grass); phosphorous promotes root growth, which allows the roots to absorb more water and nutrients; and potassium promotes cell function, which also helps with absorption. The amounts you need will depend on your soil, climate and type of plants, but most can benefit from a high-phosphorus diet to stimulate root growth before winter.
Make notes about your vegetable and flower gardens so you’ll know what worked and what didn’t. This way, you can adjust your garden when it comes time to plant in the spring. Mark your perennials with sticks so that you won’t accidentally plant over them. Plant bulbs for the spring, such as tulips, daffodils and irises. If you have a vegetable garden, plant garlic (also a bulb) in the fall, so you’ll have it ready to harvest in the spring.
If you live in a warm climate, fall’s a great time to plant roses, like Flower Carpets. This gives them time to get established without the stress of high heat.
In her helpful blog on The Spruce, Marie Ianotti explains how to plant cole crops (cool weather lovers) such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale in the fall. because they like the cooler weather.
Now that the weather is chillier, working in the yard isn’t quite so miserable. It only takes a few small chores to get your lawn and garden ready for winter, so that next spring, you’ll have a lush lawn and an abundant garden. While you’re at it, feed the birds. They need to fatten up before the winter, and it’s a nice way to help out our feathered friends.