3 Fall Gardening Tips That Will Make You Better Prepared for Spring
While you may be sad to see your garden go at the end of summer, there still is much work to be done to prepare it and your yard at large for the next growing season. Preparing for the seasonal shift is a key step toward keeping your garden and yard healthy during dormant periods so you can pick up where you left off when the warmer weather returns.
Take Care of Dead Plants
Dead plants are not a pleasant sight for people who work hard on their garden. While you may want to trim them down to the ground, it is more beneficial for your garden to trim dead leaves and lightly trim back dead plant matter that will create compost mulch for your garden bed.
When you do trim the leaves and plants, add them to your compost heap for more compost. You also will be able to continue watching birds in your garden if you leave seed heads and ornamental grasses in place throughout the winter; they’ll have a feast while the dead plants make your garden ready for healthy plants in the spring.
Rake Dead Leaves
There has been some conflicting advice about how to handle dead leaves in the fall: some people say to put down the rake and allow them to stay, while other say to rake them off. The truth is, both sides are right. You should allow leaves that fall into your garden to stay there, because they add nutrients to your soil and provide cover to prevent weed growth in the spring.
On the other hand, you should rake leaves from your yard because they can pile up and kill the grass underneath. Layers of leaves invite pests and diseases into your yard, and a layer of leaves on your grass prevents water, nutrients, and healthy air flow from reaching your lawn’s roots.
Prepare Your Yard by Mowing, Aerating, and Fertilizing
While you may enjoy a reprieve from mowing, do not neglect your yard just because the weather turns cooler. To keep your grass healthy, you need to prepare your yard before the snow flies, and you need to do more than mow. Drop your mower’s blade to the lowest setting for the last two cuttings of the year. More sunlight will reach the grass, and there will be less that turns brown during winter. You may want to gradually lower the blade throughout fall, so you don’t trim off more than one-third of your grass blades at any time.
You also should aerate your lawn to make it easier for oxygen, water, and fertilizer to reach its roots. You can rent an aerator or hire a landscaper if you don’t want to go to the expense of purchasing a machine; however, if you take good care of your aerator you will be able to use it for many years to come. Self-propelled aerators quickly put holes into the soil and remove balls of dirt.
If your yard has lightly compacted or sandy soil, or if you have aerated in the past year, aerate in a single pass by following your regular mowing pattern. On the other hand, you should make two passes with the aerator if your soil has not been aerated in more than one year. You also should leave the soil plugs where they are to decompose because they contain microorganisms that benefit your yard.
Fertilizing also is important for future yard growth. Fall is an ideal time to fertilize your yard because grass roots grow quickly during cool weather, and fall fertilization provides nutrients for deep roots that keep nutrients handy for a healthy start to green grass in the spring. The best time to fertilize is mid-to-late fall because the morning dew provides moisture that aids the yard in absorbing the fertilizer.
It’s also a good idea to apply yard fertilizer two to three weeks before the ground freezes, if possible. Be sure to cover your entire yard and to use a walk-behind drop spreader because it applies an even, consistent layer of fertilizer.
You can prepare your garden and yard for cooler weather by taking care of dead plants and adding to your compost heap, raking dead leaves from your yard but allowing them to remain in your garden, and preparing your yard by mowing, aerating, and fertilizing.
We’d like to welcome our guest bloger this week Clara Beaufort.
Clara is a retired small business owner with a passion for gardening, born with two green thumbs. She created GardenerGigs to connect local gardeners with those in need of plant care help.
Image via Pixabay by KateCox