Summer’s final blooms quickly usher in crisp, fall air, and soon winter weather will be upon your yard. After a successful growing season, it’s time for the final stretch in yard maintenance before temperatures dip into freezing.
How you wrap up your outdoor maintenance tasks directly correlates to your yard’s springtime success and its aesthetic appeal over winter. Read on to learn how to prep your yard for hibernation before the holiday hustle starts.
1. Clean Out Spent Garden Beds Selectively
Whether you’re a vegetable gardening expert or a porch pot fan, cleaning out spent plants is a key step after harvest. Remove expired plantings from their soil down to the root. Shake off loose dirt so your bedding doesn’t develop low spots, which can hold extra water and cause issues later. Separate seeds you plan to keep for next year’s garden from spent plants, which you can then compost. Where plants have been removed, cover open spots with leaves to protect the soil from washout.
Next, trim back vigorous herbs that winter over, like mint and oregano, which otherwise may take over your space. If you have an abundance, keep them for holiday gift accents, which can elevate a simple bow. Gather clusters of herbs to dry for winter use, especially those that won’t survive the frost.
Take on all these tasks with the right gear for the job, which will make the lift lighter and more enjoyable. Wear a gardening belt to keep tools handy, like pruning shears, rubber ties, plant tags, and a felt-tip marker. Protect your forearms with a Carhartt hoodie, which can guard you from the scrapes and thorns you may encounter during your cleanout. Wear fitted leather gloves that allow for mobility while offering protection for your hands. Finally, designate a bucket for compost and another for waste to keep foliage from creating a larger mess.
2. Prune, Trim, and Protect Plantings
In the primary area of your yard, review the growth pattern of your plantings. While the first few years of growth may result in a welcome fullness, too much can look unruly. Woody plants like trees or bushes may require shaping or even relocating, depending on where they’re planted. Use leaves to protect the base root areas of trees and bushes, keeping foliage off the trunk. Do the same over and around green plants like perennials, which can handle the additional moisture.
Examine perennial plants’ growing patterns to determine whether they’re due to be divided or trimmed back. Hostas and daylilies are popular plants that will need to be divided every few years. Dig up plants completely and remove the dirt, taking care not to break off parts of the root system. You’ll see clusters that easily divide with a carefully placed spade or trowel. Split up plantings and replant as you like or, share extras with a friend. Prune back plants based on each variety’s needs, taking care not to remove buds from spring-flowering shrubs.
Roses often have a fall rush of blooms that make it hard to reach for the loppers. However, if you leave too much growth on your roses, it may result in heavy, ice-laden branches over winter. If your branches break, it can damage the shape of your plant and invite disease. Some hydrangeas call for trimming down toward the earth, while others are safe to winter over as is. Allow flower seed pods and dried blooms to remain for added winter interest and as a food source for birds.
3. Do a Final Lawn Mowing and Treatment Application
You may be counting down the days before your final lawn-mowing session, but make sure you do it right. Check the condition of your lawn to determine what treatments or techniques you’ll need to deploy. If you have bare patches, you may need to overseed. If weeds are abundant, you’ll want to eradicate them with care.
Aerate your lawn to allow more air, water, and nutrients to reach the soil. If your yard is compacted, this can help alleviate the weed issue and promote healthier grass growth. Overseed the aerated lawn promptly and water it according to your seed type. Apply seed when temperatures are consistently cool to reduce the risk of it germinating this year. The goal is to prepare for healthy growth in the spring, not to grow grass now, as new seedlings won’t survive the frost.
Avoid chemical applications over new seeds, as they can scorch sensitive new grasses. However, nutrient-rich applications can be applied over aerated lawns to promote stronger lawn growth and deeper roots. Do your final mowing when temperatures are cool and the grass isn’t likely to grow much. Cut to three inches, which is long enough to protect the roots without allowing growth that could otherwise be unsightly.
Get a Head Start on Next Year’s Growing Season
How you handle your yard’s final days of fall will determine how your spring blooms thrive. Set the foundation for a healthy lawn and planting beds by treating your property with care. Trim plants, nourish your lawn, and use nature to your advantage. When you do, you’ll enjoy well-nourished soil, protect plants from frost, and get a jump start on the spring season.