Fall has finally arrived. The leaves are falling and temperatures are getting cooler, which means winter is just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to prepare your landscape for the cold winter months. However, this preparation will entail more than just raking up leaves. To ensure a healthy, beautiful landscape next spring, the following four focus areas must also be addressed.
Assess the overall health of your trees, shrubs and perennials during the fall. Look for any abnormalities and consider an assessment by an arborist or horticulturist.
Remove any dead branches from shrubs at this time. Hold off on pruning the entire shrub as pruning encourages new growth, and this new growth can quickly die with the first frost.
Fall is a good time to come up with ideas for next year. Some perennials can be divided or transplanted to different locations within the landscape. Look for better ways to utilize current plants in the landscaping.
Perennial plants that have died off should be cut down to 2” to 4” off the ground. Removing dead debris will not only improve the aesthetic of the landscape, but it will also reduce the amount of disease and insects that grow in this dead debris over the winter.
Summer annual flowers should also be removed during the fall. These plants will dies off with the first frost.
Fall fertilization and weed control is important to prepare for winter. Spraying broadleaf weeds such as dandelions is best done in the fall. These weeds go dormant with the first frost, only to reappear in May. Ridding your lawn of them now will only enhance your lawn’s appearance in the spring. Fertilizing in the fall will add much needed nutrients to the soil. The grass stores these nutrients in its roots during the winter and can better recover come spring.
In addition to fertilizing and watering, one of the best things you can do for your lawn is aerating. Fall is the ideal time to aerate lawns.
Aeration is the process of removing small nickel sized cores of soil from the ground. Once the soil cores are removed, it makes it easier for air, water and nutrients to reach grass roots. This keeps roots healthy, which in turn makes healthy grass blades above the soil.
Winterizing the irrigation system must be done to avoid costly repairs next spring. Winterizing means removing water from the irrigation lines.
This process is best done by hooking up an air compressor to the system and blowing out all water from the system. If water is left in lines, it will expand as it turns into ice, cracking pipes, valves and sprinkler heads.
The last and most common step is raking leaves. All fallen leaves will need to be removed from grass and landscape beds prior to winter. Over time the dead leaves capture moisture and create an excellent habitat for insects and diseases. This can adversely affect the health of your grass and plants.
The time and effort spent this fall properly preparing the landscape for winter will help protect the landscape investment on your property and allow your plants to thrive next spring.