As all homeowners are well aware, caring for your property is a never-ending, year-long endeavor. Just as in the spring and summer, there is a maintenance checklist that should be done in the fall to ensure that your lawn, landscaping, entertaining spaces and exterior features of your home are protected and set up for success once spring rolls back around next year.
A few suggestions on general projects and procedures that are best performed in the fall include:
Fall is a great time to plant just about anything. From a turf management perspective, fall is a great time for aeration and over seeding. This will promote root growth; the stronger the root system, the better chance your lawn will have to withstand the harsh winter conditions in Nebraska every year. Preparing your lawn for the winter is fairly easy and not terribly time consuming, but it is also something that is often overlooked and with detrimental results.
The best seed window is from September 15th to October 15th. If you do not intend to aerate your yard in the fall then consider slit seeding or drilling the seed. Either one of these methods implants the seed in the soil and protects it from neighborhood friends like birds, squirrels and rabbits. Seeding in the fall usually requires less water to establish the newly planted seed. Another advantage to fall over seeding is weed control, as weeds are at the end of their growing cycle.
Supporting the root growth of your lawn during the fall is paramount to ensuring the return of a healthy lawn in the spring.
Fall, along with very early spring, is a great time for planting trees—it may seem strange, but especially after the leaves have fallen off. As with your lawn, this gives the tree a chance to grow a strong root system prior to dormancy while not being stressed out trying to create leaves.
Planting trees for a fall landscaping project will be rewarding for years to come. Decide what type of tree you want to plant and make sure that it will survive in your zone and fit into your landscape once fully grown. Many fruit trees come in dwarf varieties and can be pruned to maintain a smaller size. Look for a young and healthy tree at a local nursery. Follow planting recommendations for your variety of tree.
One of the most important things to keep in mind in regards to your underground irrigation system as fall draws near is the winterization process. Whether you choose to use the gravity drain method or blow the system out with pressurized air you want to make sure you or your irrigation professional winterizes the system correctly. An improper winterization can lead to expensive repairs in the spring. While it is not required on most residential systems, winterizing with pressurized air is the only way to ensure all the water has been evacuated from your system. If you blow-out your own irrigation system make sure to never exceed 70 psi.
Winterizing isn’t just for your sprinkler system, either. Make sure that you prepare your lawn for winter so that it not only survives, but thrives next season. This includes clearing all debris, especially leaves, and to apply a winterizer. A winterizer is a late fall fertilizing designed to help lawns store more food for winter survival, and to encourage thick and rapid growth and rooting in the spring. A winterizer isn’t meant to encourage fall growth of grass; it is the finishing touch for a good start in the spring. Early fall fertilizing, which can still be done in October too, is widely considered the most important fertilizer of the year for northern grasses. The best time to apply a winterizer is after the grass stops growing in the fall, but while it is still green. In Nebraska, this will be sometime in late October all the way up until mid- to late November in some instances. Basically, when you put the mower away for the year, apply winterizer to your lawn too.
If you’re considering a fall landscape project and need the assistance of a professional, don’t wait any longer. Good landscapers are very busy in the fall and the chances of getting a late season project started yet this year may be winding down. However, that doesn’t mean you should not make contact with the professional now. Some work may be able to begin this year and complete the project in the spring. If we luck out and have a nice long fall, then you’re ahead of the game.
“Fall is a wonderful time to move forward with the outdoor landscape projects you have been thinking about during the busy summer months,” says Travis Lerdahl, owner of Priority Turf & Irrigation. “Temperatures are ideal for planting and there is plenty of time to complete projects and even to enjoy them before winter. Many people spend their free time enjoying their home’s outdoor living areas, whether for cook-outs, entertaining guests, spending time with the family, playing fetch with the dogs, and so on. This is why it is important to have a plan when starting your new fall landscape projects, and finding out how the homeowner utilizes the property is the first step.
If you already have a sustainable and enjoyable landscape, then fall is the best time to add anything new. A fast growing trend in landscaping additions are water features, and more specifically, pond-less systems with automatic fill valves and times that are ideal for the homeowner that’s looking for something maintenance-free. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing all day and night (with proper lighting), the sounds these water features make help in creating the tranquil oasis we strive for in our outdoor living areas. Another amazing addition to any landscape–new or old–is Landscape Lighting. Homeowners spend thousands on their landscaping only to have it all disappear when the sun goes down. Landscape Lighting will expand the usability into the evening by highlighting architectural details of the home and stone work, accenting the landscaping, creating safe walkways, and offering added night time security.”
He adds, “Let’s not forget about sprinkler systems! It is very important to adjust zone run times to the appropriate settings for the cooling temperatures. It is very easy to over-water this time of the year, which can wash away new seed put down and create soggy areas in lawns that leave the turf vulnerable to damage from mowers, pets, and kids. If you are looking for a new sprinkler system next year, now is the time to put one in. Installation in the fall gives the turf time to recover at fast rates so it is ready first thing in the spring. Also, because irrigation companies are extremely busy in the spring with start-ups and repairs, new sprinkler systems installations usually have to wait four weeks to go in after approval. It is also very important to have a licensed sprinkler contractor winterize your sprinkler system. Buyer Beware: There are many companies that offer this service at a cheaper price, but do not know the proper methods which can lead to major and costly damages.
All things considered, fall is a wonderful time to enjoy your landscape.”
Never underestimate what can still be done to the landscape or hardscape of your property in the fall. In fact, as long as the ground is not frozen, you may find that you can get on a contractors schedule much faster than in the spring. If a mild winter occurs, you may find that projects can be completed all the way up to December. Adding square footage to your living space with outdoor entertaining areas is all the rage right now, and for good reason. Fire pits are extremely popular this time of year, and outdoor kitchens are still popular—especially for football and holiday parties. Manufacturers have developed components that include outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, pizza ovens and food storage space that are pre-cut for easy assembly and sometimes pre-fabricated so that they simply drop in place as a kitchen in the home would do. Decks in particular are nice to do in the fall, as you can then let the new lumber season and seal it the following year.
Another great way to expand and maximize the living space in your home is to add a sunroom. Terri Rediger, owner of Malibu Sunrooms, explains, “If you have not been in a sunroom, I think it’s impossible to really understand what you are missing. People LOVE their sunroom. It’s everyone’s favorite room in the house. You ‘feel’ like you are outside, but can enjoy the comforts of being inside. When there’s a snowstorm, it is SO COOL being in a sunroom–like living in a snow globe. And really, no matter what the weather is doing, the weather is always great in a Malibu Sunroom!”
Rediger also emphasizes that there are many outdoor projects that should be completed in the fall as this is the optimal time to do so. “Replacing or repairing doors and windows in your house is especially important when facing the harsh winters we get in Nebraska and Iowa. Broken seals, air infiltration and poor weather stripping can affect both your energy bill and your comfort in the winter. Adding ice and water shield to your roof is also a very important aspect of maintaining your home. About six years ago, building codes changed and an ice and water shield are now required on roofs. However, this was not always the case and there are many roofs out there today without this important element. Ice and water shield creates a barrier between your shingles and your roof decking. Without it, ice builds up and pushes itself under the shingles, which then can leak into your house. Ice and water shield is a secondary defense against leaks.”
She adds, “When considering the importance of year round curb appeal, seasonal upkeep is just a part of being a homeowner. When our homes are well cared for, our property values go up. A lot of times, it’s not just for our own property–it’s also for the good of the neighborhood. Curb appeal is always important when it comes to selling and buying homes. When buyers can ‘see’ continued maintenance and care, it strikes a chord that indicates there are no problems or issues with the home. Now, there is upkeep, and then there’s the ‘WOW factor’. Landscaping, beautiful decks or concrete and water features add tremendous appeal to your home. Sunrooms not only add beauty to your home, but also additional finished square feet! I haven’t met one person who was sorry they added a sunroom. Who wouldn’t want to feel like they are outside all year long? And aside from adding a stylish look outside of your home, a sunroom adds class, sunshine and architectural appeal from the INSIDE of your home. Most people who own a sunroom will tell you that they literally ‘live’ in their room. No other room in the house gets used as much as a sunroom. The ‘feeling of the outdoors’ in any season or weather is what gets them.
The additional living space–a place to have Thanksgiving dinner, a space to relax, to watch TV, to read a book, to play with grandchildren, to open Christmas presents or to watch the wildlife that takes place in your own backyard—is well worth the cost. As far as adding value to your home, there is no question that a sunroom fits the bill. But adding value to your life and your lifestyle, well I don’t think there’s a price you can put on that.”
Adding square feet to your home by way of outdoor living space enhances its value and your enjoyment. There are many ways homeowners can improve or add interest to these areas to make them comfortable and inviting. Many of these involve durable brick, stone and paver products. Carson Stone & Supply offers a wide range of colors, sizes and textures of hardscaping products to fit any residential project, and the quality of their products is impeccable.
All stone products are definitely not created equal, and Randy Wheeler of Carson Stone & Supply cautions, “For outdoor living spaces, make sure to choose your materials carefully. Pay attention to the quality and durability of the materials, and if you are in doubt, make sure to ask plenty of questions. We supply products to contractors and homeowners, and we would be happy to discuss what type of materials would work best for your next project.
Many times outdoor projects are a work in progress, and the current or following homeowners will likely want to add to them in the future. With products such as stone, brick, or pavers, it can be difficult to find a match later on if the product isn’t commonly used or is a rare find. I highly recommend purchasing materials from an established company so that you will continue to have access to the same items in the future.”
Wheeler also offers some tips on fall maintenance and upkeep. “Make sure that all of the stone and paver accents in your landscape features are thoroughly cleaned and sealed in the fall to prepare them for winter, or have a professional check to see if any areas are compromised. In my experience, Techniseal products do an excellent job for sealing and protecting paver patios. Depending upon the surface materials and when the installation was done, you can refer to manufacturer’s guidelines for care year round but we recommend once yearly to keep them looking sharp. You will also want to winterize your water features once freezing temperatures are consistent and protect any botanical features.”
With the fall season approaching and the days becoming shorter, as previously mentioned now is definitely a good time to look at installing an outdoor lighting project. When you spend time outdoors with family and friends, you’ll need adequate outdoor lighting to illuminate your landscape areas. Whether you’re sitting outside on a deck or patio or you wish to place a spotlight on a specific area of your yard, outdoor lighting can create a very pleasurable and inviting space.
There is a variety of lighting styles to choose from such as up lighting, path lighting, and down lighting. A professional can assist you in designing and selecting the perfect lighting effects for your outdoor lighting project. It’s important to consider what you need and how you will use the lighting to ensure that you choose lighting with the features you need. With many benefits of functional outdoor lighting, finding the lighting style and fixtures that will add beauty, function and safety to your outdoor areas is easy with the help of a professional.
Some of the benefits of outdoor lighting include:
Outdoor lighting can add safety in a variety of ways. Illuminate walkways to ensure that people navigate these areas safely. Use zone lighting to add light to areas of your yard and landscape for nighttime use. Zone lighting can be effective for lighting a patio, deck, garden, pool area or outdoor seating area. Illuminate sidewalks, driveways, garages and entryways to keep your landscape safe after dark. The more lights, the safer your outdoor areas will be.
Extend your living areas by lighting your outdoor landscape. If you have a deck or patio with seating, add comfortable and attractive lighting to enable you to use these areas after dark. The ambiance of outdoor seating can be pleasant and inviting, especially when you feature attractive outdoor lighting that adds to your outdoor decor.
Showcase and highlight specific areas of your landscape with decorative lighting. By installing up lighting around your landscape in various spots, you pull the eye to these areas and display them attractively. Landscape lighting is also an effective way to display planting areas or flower gardens. Install mood lighting along outdoor buildings to add pleasant splashes of light in your landscape. You can even add low-voltage exterior lights to trees and shrubs outdoors to illuminate planting areas and add beautiful accents to your exterior areas.
A well-lit home gives a maintained impression to the entire neighborhood. Your house will appear warm and inviting as it sits quietly on your property. In contrast to a dark and drab home, your illuminated home will draw people in and offer a warm refuge for family and friends.
Regardless of the purpose of your outdoor lighting, the benefits are all positive. From increasing safety and security to creating a warm and inviting environment, adding outdoor lighting will enhance and beautify your home.
There have been some great advancements in outdoor lighting over the past few years. LED technology allows for 30 percent less power consumption and some lighting transformers now come with Bluetooth technology and apps for both Android and Apple IOS, putting the control of your new lighting system at your fingertips. Outdoor lighting really brings your landscape or backyard to life.
If you decide to take on a landscaping project this fall on your property, whether residential or commercial, it is very important to be aware of the exact location of your property lines. This is something that should be done before anything else, mainly because it can be costly later on down the line if you have utilized property that you don’t own in your design. The money that you spend in your landscaping project is an investment in the overall value and appearance of your property, but if you don’t own the land you are improving you are effectively investing in someone else’s property value. Land Survey, LLC specializes in assisting property owners by providing exact property boundaries. Toni Montana, owner of Land Survey, LLC, advises, “Many times property owners assume they know where their property starts and ends, mainly due to a previous landscape that offers a boundary feature such as a fence or retaining wall, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know where your property lines are, especially the corners. I employ a method which utilizes CAD drawn plans (as opposed to hand-drawn ones), which are far more clear and concise. Although they may take a little longer, there is greater accuracy in the results. When considering how you will obtain a boundary survey, ask other property owners first. Word of mouth or the Better Business Bureau website is a good place to start in finding the best professionals when it comes to any aspect of landscaping, but especially when choosing who will accurately assess where your invisible property lines lie. Furthermore, the service of land survey takes a lot of time to learn and the property laws can be confusing. My best advice is to always consult with a licensed surveying firm before proceeding. Trying to cut costs up front may cost a lot more in the end.”
You just never know what the weather has in store for us each year, but as it stands now, there is still plenty of time to get some fall landscaping projects accomplished. It’s a good idea to reach out to local professionals for all of your fall landscaping needs and inquiries yet this month—don’t miss out on taking the necessary steps to keep your landscape in tip-top condition!