It may be the end of the growing season, but that doesn't mean the end of work in the yard and garden. You'll want to keep your outdoor space looking nice for fall and winter, especially if your home is on the market or awaiting a home inspection. To make for a beautiful bloom next spring, take the time to complete these plant-based tasks.
The classic fall activity is also a basic first step in preparing for the cooler temperatures that lie ahead. But some of us who would like to go into hibernation a little early would rather not bother with the annual leaf load, and think nothing of letting them remain where they fall. While you may not want to, your grass will thank you for removing leaves, according to research from the University of Minnesota. Although they would allow no more than 20 percent of your lawn to remain covered, for optimal health, leaves should be removed in order to promote growth of your grass and prevent harmful mold from propagating. The researchers do recommend mulching the leaves in order to add nutrients to the lawn without sacrificing its health. Your homeowners association or neighborhood rules may also require regular leaf removal.
If you do decide to mulch your leaves, they could come in handy in your garden, according to DIYNetwork's advice. Start your winter garden prep by removing any stakes, cages or other non-plant materials. You should also remove any unnecessary organic matter like rocks, sticks and weeds. Once the soil is clear, use a tiller, garden fork or even a shovel to mix up the soil. This will introduce fresh oxygen to the soil which will benefit your plants in the spring. At this point you can cover the soil up with mulched leaves, or you can plant a cover crop. DIYNetwork recommends winter rye, crimson clover or fava beans, among many other options. Taking these steps will keep your soil healthy and make for a vibrant garden when warm weather returns.
To prune or not to prune
As DIYNetwork points out, it's a common misconception that you should prune your plants in the fall. According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the best time to prune is either late in the winter or early spring. The object of pruning is to restrict growth in certain areas of the plant, or promote an overall healthier amount of growth on a plant. While many plants will grow just fine without pruning, you should tend to perennial plants before winter sets in. Remove any dead areas of perennial plants. After the first frost of the season, they can be cut down to the soil. You should also make sure to completely remove any annuals, since these won't make it past the winter anyway. Of course, you can compost these trimmings and make for some quality soil within a few months.
Winterize the lawn
Once you've removed leaves and weeds from your lawn, it's time to winterize. DIYNetwork recommends taking stock of which plants in your lawn or garden did well during the summer and which did not. Remove the plants that did not grow well to make room for the rest, or for new bulbs you may want to plant so they bloom in the spring. Then spread fertilizer on your lawn. It's best to use a fertilizer with time-release nitrogen to keep your lawn healthy through the winter and make it lush in the spring.