Autumn is an important time of year for home maintenance, especially outdoors. The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) recommends homeowners prepare their yards for colder months before the fall chill sets in.
“It’s a common misconception that just because most plants and gardens aren’t actively blooming in the fall, they don’t require maintenance during the colder months,” says NALP Vice President of Public Affairs Missy Henriksen. “Many homeowners work hard all spring and summer to care for their yards and gardens, only to let them languish once colder weather arrives.”
According to Henriksen, there are five simple steps homeowners can take to care for their landscape through fall and winter.
1. Start Planting
Fall is the time to plant flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, as well as perennials, trees and shrubs. The warm soil is great for root development, and plants have several months to establish themselves before the stress of the summer heat.
2. Rake Leaves
Rake and remove leaves to avoid damage to grass. Doing so can also protect water quality. In winter, freezing and thawing can cause leaves, dead grass, plants and other organic debris to release soluble forms of phosphate and nitrates. If these chemicals run off frozen ground during spring snow melt and early spring rains, they can end up in surface water.
3. Apply Mulch
Applying two to three inches of mulch in the fall is beneficial in protecting plant roots from extreme temperatures in the winter months, and also helps to preserve moisture if the region does not receive enough precipitation.
4. Wrap Plants
Many plant varieties like roses, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and crape myrtles can be damaged by sub-freezing temperatures. To provide plants with extra protection from the wind and cold, wrap them in burlap or a frost protection fabric and plant them along a building or fence that offers wind protection.
Look for a fertilizer with a formula designed to meet your lawn's needs and follow application instructions on the product. The numbers on a fertilizer bag, in N-P-K order, indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, respectively, on weight basis. If you aren’t sure what your lawn needs, consult with a lawn care or landscape professional. A soil test can determine what ratio is best for your lawn. Be sure to check with your local agricultural extension office, as some locations regulate the time of year that fertilizer can be applied to reduce runoff.