Landscaping is a crucial part of keeping your home looking its best year-round, but in order for it to do so, you must be aware of the proper upkeep required for each of the seasons. Many people get really excited about improving their property in the spring, and with good reason, but neglect the importance of attending to aspects of landscaping that are best done in the fall. This is certainly easy to do, as we closely relate spring as a time of new growth that features the emergence of greenery after the seemingly unending, stark surroundings of a Nebraska winter. As fall approaches, there are also steps you may need to take to ensure your lawn, garden, trees and outdoor features are protected during the winter months. Additionally, fall is a great time to plan (and plant) for what you desire your yard to look like once spring rolls around again. The month of October is the perfect time to whip your yard into shape before winter, and we have assembled some great information and tips from our experts to help get your started!
Establishing, Protecting and Caring for Your Landscape in the Fall
Fall is truly as optimal a time for landscaping as the spring, simply for a different set of reasons. For the do-it-yourself homeowners, working in the crisp air can be a welcome respite from the sometimes brutal summers. We can get more work done when we are not suffering from the heat. Also, the fall season is a time when contractors may have time to fit projects into their schedule more readily–you may even find that discounts are available. We consulted Matt Heebner, owner of Renaissance Gardens, Inc., on the topic of Fall Landscaping and he gave us some great insights of the importance of completing certain projects during the fall months as well as some tips for general upkeep before winter weather hits. “The most important reasons for taking time to complete your fall landscape projects, from a horticulturist’s perspective, are the rewards that may not be apparent until the following year. We all know that proper preparation is the key to success. Preparation requires watering, fertilizing and protection. If we do not take the time to insure that our plants and lawn are receiving what they require, we cannot expect that they have a foreseeable future. Watering is vital for their survival of our sometimes brutal winters. New plantings may have a tendency to heave in the winter if they have not set down roots into the native soil surrounding the original planting hole. Making sure that they have adequate water will insure that a healthy root structure is established. As is often the case, never assume that rainfall is enough for your plants. Fertilizing is another simple task that can reap rewards the following year. Whether your lawn or planting beds, a good winterizing fertilizer will provide essential nutrients for your garden until the following growing season. Keep in mind that as the season draws to a close, you want to eliminate nitrogen (the first number in the fertilizers formula: 0-10-10) to prevent unnecessary new growth heading in to the dormant winter. Protection refers to the special needs that elements in the garden require. This could be blowing out the irrigation lines in anticipation of the freezing weather to providing extra mulch to perennials and shrubs that are not as hardy to our climate.” He adds, “Fall is a time when we can stand back and assess our gardens with a more critical eye. We can look at the garden to see what succeeded and what plants didn’t quite live up to (sometimes literally) what we had in mind. By late July, many garden centers are trying to clear out inventory and good deals can be found on perennials and shrubs. In addition to end of the summer deals, mums, asters, and other fall blooming perennials come on the market. These selections are great to add instant color and fill in bare spots of the garden. Desired tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, or other bulbs must be planted in the fall. Accomplishing this requires us to remember what the garden looked like in the spring. Taking photos of each section of the garden at different points of the growing season can be a very helpful tool when deciding where to plant these types of bulbs. During the fall, pull out those photos so that you can make an accurate decision on where to plant the newest varieties from Holland. Remember that, just like with any new planting, adequate water and fertilizing is necessary for success. A good bulb food, such as bone meal, should always be available at your garden center.”
Tree Planting and Care
Specifically regarding trees, Heebner states, “When assessing your landscaping in the fall, stand back and look up. We often do not consider our trees as much as we should. Look at the shadows that they cast. Look for dieback as it is easier to identify when the tree is in full leaf than during the dormant season. Limbs that can be cut to allow more light into the garden or that may be susceptible to damage in a winter storm should be identified now. Do not attempt to prune them now, as pruning promotes new growth. However, knowing where to cut can mean taking advantage of an unseasonably warm February day to do some tree pruning. Trees, like all plants, prepare themselves for the winter. Trees do this by losing their leaves and redirecting all of energy they produce to the root system. Fall tree planting presents the opportunity that doesn’t exist in the spring. Rather than try to sustain all the new growth that a tree will have in the spring and summer, as well as associated pests, a fall planted tree needs only to be adequately watered, well-mulched, properly staked to insure healthy growth the following year. Be sure to allow plenty of time from planting to frost to make sure roots have time to form. Trees are essential to the urban fabric of our neighborhoods. They are an investment in the future of how a community looks and feels. Trees should be assessed on a regular basis for health and vigor. Have a tree professional visit to advise you on the expected life span of your trees. If a mature tree on your property is expected to die, it is never too early to plant a tree in its place. This is sometimes referred to succession planting. As it takes many years for trees to reach mature size, it is imperative to start the process early.”
Joe Sevening of Sevening’s Lanscape, Inc. adds, “Fall is a great time to take advantage of discounted landscaping material–especially trees. Fall is also a great time to plant trees, as they will soon be going dormant and a good deep root watering is essential for successful spring budding. Trees are a good bang for your buck as they will enhance your curb appeal and bring value to your property. Curb appeal is like branding your lifestyle; it shows you take pride in your investment and are doing your part to make the neighborhood inviting and a nice place to live. We also see a lot of interest in outdoor living spaces such as gas Fire Pits and pizza ovens, mainly anything to get the family together and enjoy the fall weather. Trees will also provide good privacy for your new outdoor living space!”
Outdoor Projects—Fall Hardscaping is Important Too!
Hardscaping projects are also best completed in the fall, as many qualified contractors are trying to squeeze as many projects in before they have to eventually close up shop. As long as the ground is not frozen, you may find that you can get on their 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. 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. Or if you want to add a space that you can enjoy during the winter as well, sunrooms are the perfect choice. Terri Rediger of Malibu Sunrooms 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 5 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.”
Rediger also speaks to the significance of curb appeal. She says, “When considering the importance of curb appeal, 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 classy 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 cost of a new sunroom is generally about the same price as a new car. Some people are okay with a new Toyota, while some people want a new BMW. These are options that are available depending on your budget and your individual taste—much like the options available for a sunroom. After ten years, your car unfortunately isn’t worth anything near what you paid for it but a new sunroom will likely be worth one and a half times what you paid for it! Sometimes, we just need to put things into perspective. We live in our homes and this is where we naturally invest most of our money. Cars are nice, but they won’t provide 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. 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.”
We also consulted Derek Leibert, President of Attic Solutions, on which exterior projects are best to consider in the fall and how they contribute to the overall value of your home. He advises, “The change of seasons offers many opportunities to improve the comfort, efficiency and curb appeal of your home from outside projects. This is the best time to address any issues related to your attic ventilation, roof, gutters, insulation and siding before winter because these projects require outside access and a degree of warmth. We offer free ‘peace of mind’ inspections for all of these things and can help make immediate repairs and improvements before it’s too late to do them this year. In fact, we’ll even clean your gutters or show you how to once and for all say goodbye to cleaning gutters by having us install Leaf Free gutter guards. Also, I think about all of the homes out there whose roofs, gutters, siding and more were damaged by hail back in April. Although insurance companies usually give homeowners several years to make repairs, we strongly suggest completing restoration projects quickly because existing damage can lead to more severe damage. We add our signature HomeFIT system during hail restoration and also work with your insurance company to complete all of the work, making these often-daunting repairs much more manageable and cost effective as a package. Attic ventilation is also particularly important as the seasons change because it affects the R-Value of insulation (not enough ventilation can result in diminished insulation effectiveness.) Also, insufficient ventilation increases the odds of ice dams during winter. Fall is the perfect time because once it snows most ventilation projects have to wait until spring, which is too late to prevent damage from ice dams or manage the moisture from condensation. Most importantly, the work Attic Solutions does on the exterior of your home has a huge impact on the inside of your home. The best time to increase the comfort and efficiency of your home is now because come winter, we’re kind of stuck in our homes more than usual. Feel free to contact me directly for more information or visit us online at our new website www.getvented.com to request your free Fall HomeFIT Inspection.”
As winter is quickly approaching, now is the time to enjoy the beauty of fall before it is gone—starting with your own property and landscape! Moreover, getting in the habit of attending to specific seasonal tasks and projects will keep your yard stunning year-round and provides many other benefits as well. So get creative with a few new projects or improvements, make sure you remember to check and protect your existing features, and when in doubt always utilize local professionals who are more than happy to lend their expertise to ensure your landscape is properly cared for and looks great in any season!