Prepare your yard for winter

A chill in the air and growing piles of leaves signal fall is here. Though the kids may bemoan the annual raking ritual, there’s something invigorating about being outdoors and prepping the yard for the coming winter and the spring that follows. Think of it as your very own harvest celebration.

Fall colors    Fall leafs

Here are some tasks to add to your fall to-do list.

Get raking
Generally, leaves should be raked up, or cleaned up using a blower, within three or four days of falling; if they’re soggy with rain, get them picked up even faster. Mostly, this is because lawns need to breathe to be healthy, but grass types should also be considered. Most lawns in the northern parts of the United States are made up of grasses that are most active during cooler weather. To do that, they need sunlight, too, so getting rid of the leaves helps the grass along. We found this great raking tool that makes the task easier than ever on  

Over seed your lawn
It’s time to fill in those bare patches by over seeding your existing lawn. First of all, determine whether you have warm- or cool-season grass. Warm-season grasses grow in the Southern areas of the country and go dormant in cool weather. To avoid an unattractive brown lawn, you can over seed your grass. Cool-season grasses of the Northern states grow during cooler weather, and fall is a good time to over seed. In either case, mow the current grass, cutting it about ½ an inch shorter than you would in the spring. To give the new seed better access to the soil, be sure to bag or rake up the clippings. Aerate, seed according to the instructions on the seed bag, nourish with fertilizer, and start a daily watering regimen. If your current lawn is especially sparse, consider planting an entirely new lawn.

Don’t forget to water
Even though it might rain a lot in your region, many areas don’t get as much precipitation. When that’s the case, keep your watering routine until around Labor Day. Conventional wisdom calls for lawns to get an inch of water every 2-3 weeks. Avoid over-watering, though, because soggy soil can get moldy.

Give your garden some TLC
Mulch your garden in the fall to keep it healthy and thriving. Once the fall veggies and annual flower gardens are dead or depleted, you can begin the process. Remove plant debris and compost it then weed and rototill the soil. To use leaves as mulch, run the lawn mower over them to shred them up first.

Put pruning on pause
Hold back on the pruning in the fall. Although there are exceptions, generally plants are getting ready to go dormant for the winter so you don’t want to encourage new growth. You can check with a local nursery if you’re unsure about any plant or tree in particular, but generally, give the pruning a rest in the fall.

Put bulbs in the ground
Plant some bulbs now and be rewarded with a big splash of color next spring. If you live where the ground doesn’t freeze, plant in November. Otherwise, plant bulbs before the ground freezes. Check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac hardiness and growing guide to decide what kinds of bulbs flourish in your region.

If you want more information about gardening, ornamental grasses, trees or plants, the U.S. National Arboretum gardening page is a great resource.

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