It seems as if Summer’s end brings the end of lawn and garden work. For some plants, it is. But if you want the best lawn and garden in the Spring, start now. Here is a list of things to do now, so in the Spring you’ll sit back and enjoy while your neighbors sweat.
Rake all dead leaves, branches and twigs off the lawn. Rent a mulcher and turn the waste into compost to feed spring plants. Removing the dead material allows the ground to breathe, allows seeds to come in contact with the soil, and soil amendments to contact the soil.
Rent an aerator from an equipment shop or DIY store. It will pull 1-3 inch deep plugs from the soil, no more than a half inch wide. This allows water, nutrients and weed killers to soak into the soil.
After aerating, apply a high phosphorous grass fertilizer (12-25-12) to feed grass roots into the fall. Grass keeps producing roots until the ground temperature lowers to around 40 degrees, so don’t stop taking care of them now. In the spring, they’ll green up faster than every one else’s.
When the last lawn mowing of the season is in sight, mow low. For Augustine grass, mow to a height of 1 ¼”. The grass will go dormant sooner, and grow heartier in the spring. Disease can’t get hold of short grass, and leaves will blow across the yard to settle in taller grass.
Now is the time to plant new shrubs. Check your soil, and your growing zone. Research to find the best plants for your area. If you have clay soil, this link gives a list of shrubs that love clay. Choose flowering, color-changing or slow growing shrubs for your landscape.
Cut and remove dead limbs from trees before winter storms cause damage. Dead limbs break and cause damage to trunks, houses, cars and people. Taking the dead limbs off now saves time and cleanup throughout the season. Mulch the refuse to produce compost for the spring.
Remove spent annual plants, cut them up and consign them to the compost pile. Trim perennials back to the ground. The plants will send energy to the roots for stronger plants in the spring.
For perennials that have reached their third year, now is the time to divide them. More room in the spring means bigger plants, and you have plants to give as gifts you didn’t have to buy.
For new beds, after the first light frost but before the ground freezes, lay down a covering of compost and mulch. Till the compost into the soil, then cover the bed with no more than two inches of mulch. In the spring, the bed will pop.
Now is the time to drain drip irrigation systems. Standing water in the pipes can freeze and split them, creating more work. Turn the water off, insert an air compressor fitting, and turn the air compressor to a high-volume, low-pressure setting. A high-pressure setting will damage the irrigation pipes.
Research to find the best time for applying grass seed, and mark your calendar. Seeding in the fall allows the “cold period” process to take place, and when the warm Spring sun hits, the seed takes roots and grows like gangbusters.
In the Spring, your lawn and garden will explode with color and healthy plants, while neighbors are seeding, weeding, cleaning up and wondering why theirs doesn’t look like yours.
Source: Roger Cook, “Fall Landscaping Checklist,” This Old House Website, no date given
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse forms of DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects and more.