As the weather cools down, we often think we’re off the hook for our lawns until Spring.  Though we may not have to worry about the amount of upkeep that comes with the warmer months, don’t make the mistake of thinking that nothing needs to be done to your yard this fall.  There are still plenty of projects you can do when the weather gets colder and plenty of things you should do to ensure the health of your lawn throughout the fall and winter months.

Preparing Your Lawn

Fall is the perfect time to rejuvenate your lawn. The cool weather means you will have to mow, fertilize and water your lawn less frequently, giving you time to aerate and over-seed the grass.  A fall fertilizer and routine watering before winter will give your lawn a head start for spring and maintaining a full lawn will also help you to prevent weeds, which will save you time once spring rolls around.  Most importantly, be sure to rake up those leaves that fall onto your lawn during the fall. Left unattended, leaves will suffocate the grass and your lawn won’t be able to recover the following spring.

Choosing a lawn care company or landscaper to help you with your fall needs is an excellent idea.  Not only do they know the right things to do to your lawn at the right time, but they will also free up your time to enjoy the things you’d rather be doing on your days off than spending it in the yard!

Fall Planting

Surprisingly, autumn offers a much better climate for planting flowers, trees and seeds than the spring. The cooler and more predictable temperatures in addition to rainfall are much more nurturing to plants as they settle into your landscape. Planting in fall also gives seeds and roots the time to establish themselves in the soil before rough winter conditions.

You might also consider layering mulch over your freshly planted seeds and plants in order to give them protection from winter weather. Once spring returns, these plants will be at an advantage because they are settled, rested and ready to grow quickly.

The end of summer does not have to be the end of color in your landscape. Choosing plants for their fall color, persistent flowers, and ornamental berries will keep your yard attractive well after the first frost. Many trees and shrubs produce brilliantly colored foliage in autumn.

Why do the leaves change color? As temperatures drop, and days shorten in the fall, plants show off their yellow, orange and red pigments. These colors have been present in the leaves all along, but were masked by green pigments during the growing season.
In addition to fall color many trees and shrubs can provide fall and winter interest through their fruit and flowers. Several trees and shrubs also have interesting bark and silhouettes throughout the winter months.

Winterizing Annual Beds

After harvesting your fruits and flowers, remove old plant matter from the garden, placing it in your compost bin. Leaving it behind in the garden would invite plant diseases next growing season.

Next, you should rototill your garden soil. Rototilling now may seem premature, but it will make your spring rototilling work go much easier. Make a habit of rototilling each year both in the fall and in the spring. Drain the old gas out of the rototiller afterwards.  If you are going to rototill, this is the time to apply lime (if soil tests have indicated that your pH is too low). The effects of liming don’t manifest themselves for several months, so liming in the spring is too late for next year’s crop.

You also need to protect your topsoil from the rigors of winter. To protect topsoil, you can either plant a cover crop for large beds or you can apply a mulch.  Mulching is more efficient for smaller beds and landscapers have a ready source of mulch in the leaves that they rake.

Proper Winterization of Sprinklers

Heilman Irrigation, LLC recommends that all outdoor sprinkler systems be properly winterized prior to the arrival of freezing temperatures.  Even self-draining systems should be winterized to ensure that valves and other sensitive equipment are adequately protected.  “We utilize properly sized air compressors to remove water from underground lines and ensure that water is drained from all above ground lines up to a point inside the heated building,” says JD Heilman, President of Heilman Irrigation.  “There is more to winterizing than just using an air compressor to blow water out of sprinkler lines.  If not done properly, components can fail due to freezing or from the winterization process itself.  We have 20 years of experience winterizing systems in freezing climates.  For our customers who have us winterize their system and complete their spring start-up, we guarantee against freeze damage to the system and will repair any freeze damage at no cost to the customer.”

Working with a Professional

Working with a professional in the landscaping industry is the best way to ensure that your lawn and landscape area looks great throughout the entire year.  When choosing which professionals to work with, it’s important to know what you need done.  Are you just looking for someone to maintain your lawn?  Do you need someone to also care for your trees, flowers or garden?  Are you wanting to add some extra landscaping interest in the form of walkways, boulders or other hardscape materials?  Do you want to install or maintain underground sprinklers?  Do you need an entirely new landscape designed and installed?  Answering these questions will help you decide which types of professionals to call and interview so you won’t be wasting your time on companies that can’t help you with what you need.  When it comes down to making the decision, rely on references, examples of past projects and how well you get along with the person or people who will be working on your landscape.

Fall is a great time to prepare your lawn for the cold months ahead as well as to plant new materials that can provide visual interest this season and when spring rolls around again.