As summer’s heat wanes and the evenings begin to cool, it’s time to begin preparing your landscape for the winter. Hard work now will mean a robust return come spring. Here are five important fall lawn maintenance tasks to help your landscape flourish when the weather warms up again.
Prepare your lawn for new growth
As summer ends, your lawn needs special fall lawn maintenance to ensure strong and healthy grass next spring. The first step is to mow the grass shorter, down to two inches in height. Next, aerate the turf so that oxygen and nutrients flow to your lawn’s root system. Use an aerator, a rolling machine with spikes, to penetrate the compacted soil about an inch-and-a-half deep.
After aerating the soil, spread compost as a top dressing, especially where the grass is thin or bare. If you’ve been composting food scraps and leaves over the summer, you should have an ample supply on hand. If not, purchase a good top dressing from a lawn-and-garden-supply store.
Now it’s time to spread seeds matching your type of grass. Figure on five pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. Finally, add a slow-release organic fertilizer. Water every day for two weeks so that the seeds can germinate. Thereafter, water three times per week until the weather turns cold.
If you already use a professional landscape maintenance company, it may handle these fall lawn maintenance tasks for a small charge as part of your overall contract or perhaps even for no extra fee. Hiring a professional service just for aeration will probably cost 10 to 35 cents per square foot. If you decide to do it yourself, a rolling aerator can be rented for about $100 per day. You can purchase a lightweight roller for $75 or less while a heavier drum roller runs $230 and up. There are also aeration sandals you can strap onto your shoes so you can aerate the soil by strolling your yard. These are available on Amazon for around $20.
Trimming and planting the garden
With the growing season over, fall lawn maintenance requires one last trim of bushes and trees before cold weather settles in. Fall is also the time to plant bulbs for blooming flowers in the spring.
Rake and mulch leaves
After deciduous trees have dropped their leaves, run the mower over the leaves multiple times until they are chopped to pieces tiny enough to sink to the soil below. Whatever is left on the lawn should be raked and either composted or used as mulch in flower beds.
Don’t forget to clean fallen leaves out of your gutters. If they’re left over a wet winter, water damage can occur to the fascia board on your eaves. Full gutters could also cause ice dams to build up on the edge of the roof.
Weed and mulch
Pull weeds from flower beds and gardens, then turn the soil. Apply your raked leaf cuttings as mulch. If you don’t have enough to complete a three-inch layer of mulch, buy some quality mulch from a nursery to insulate your plants’ roots from winter chill.
Winterize garden implements
As part of your fall lawn maintenance, hoses should be drained, rolled up and stored in the garage or shed. Store sprinklers and other watering tools as well. Place insulating covers and wraps on outside faucets and exposed pipes. If you have a pool, follow winterizing procedures. Use the last bit of gas in your power tools like mowers and trimmers, or pour any remainder into safe containers. Do not leave gas over the winter in the tools’ fuel tanks.