Fall is a busy time of year out in the landscape. Winter is coming, as they say, and you’ll want to not only make sure that your yard is ready, but that all of the perennials, trees, and shrubs that you’ve invested in are well protected against whatever the winter can throw at them. So where should you start? With the five fall landscaping tasks below!
1. Mulch Young and Tender Plants
Mulching is a spring job, right? Partially! It’s a spring and fall job—and that’s because there are likely a few things in your landscape that will need the extra protection come winter. Mulch helps keep the ground a little bit warmer, which will protect more delicate root systems against extreme cold. It’s also important as a barrier against water runoff and soil erosion, both of which are common problems with winter snow and thaw cycles.
Make a list of all young plants—including recently planted trees and shrubs—as well as anything you’ve planted that might be on the tender side. Add two to four inches of mulch around these plants to keep them safe through the winter.
2. Cut Back Perennials
As perennials start to go dormant and die back, it’s time to get outside and cut them back. This prevents an excess of slugs, which thrive on dying leaves in the fall, and it also helps send energy down into root systems where it will be most needed come spring. Plus, your gardens will thank you in the spring since they won’t have a layer of matted plant matter to grow through when new shoots start to pop.
3. Remove Dead Limbs
Inspect trees and shrubs for dead limbs before the leaves drop fully, and prune off any that you find. If it’s a larger job—for instance, a huge limb on a big tree—call in a professional to remove it safely. It’s an investment worth your while. Dead limbs can do a lot of damage when the weight of snow and ice causes them to break. Limbs snapping off of shrubs can damage other limbs, and if it’s a tree limb, it could very well do damage to your yard or even your home.
4. Aerate Your Lawn
When your lawn is looking tired, the problem could very well be soil compaction, which leads to lower moisture levels in the soil, less oxygen reaching the roots, less fertilizer reaching the roots, and less healthy root systems that find it difficult to spread through hard soil. Use a pull-behind aerator, hire a landscaper to do the job, or if you have a small yard, there are even attachments you can get for your shoes to punch small holes in the turf. However you do it, lawn aeration will lead to a greener, healthier lawn next year.
5. Take Notes and Pictures!
What thrived in your gardens this year? What didn’t do so well? Taking notes about annuals and perennials will help you get a head start on next year’s garden planning. Over the winter, you’ll be able to read up on possible reasons why certain plants didn’t do so well so that you can fix the issue, and you’ll have notes to help you replicate the prior year’s successes. Taking some pictures of gardens can help, too, especially when you find yourself wondering where you planted this or that come the following spring.
There will be lots of jobs that will need to be done once fall arrives. These landscaping tips should give you a place to get started so that you can get everything done before the snow starts to fly.