Do I still need to tend to my lawn now that the summer is over?
The fall is a good time to get your lawn in tip top shape.
The fall can sometimes be the forgotten season when it comes to caring for your lawn and landscaping. Most property owners focus on the leaf cleanup, and do not realize that their lawn still needs to be fertilized and properly cared for to maintain good health through the winter season.
It is a good idea to keep up with routine leaf cleanups as the leaves fall, especially in neighborhoods with more mature and older trees. Not only will it make the overall task easier, it will keep air and sunlight nourishing your lawn, giving it the necessary resources for continued growth. Allowing thick piles of leaves to gather will suffocate your lawn and create brown patches. Fallen leaves can also block the flow of water away from your home. During periods of heavy rain, this water can pool and cause damage to your foundation and walkways, and can create a slippery mess.
Leaves left on your property over the winter will freeze and thaw continuously through the season, releasing soluble forms of phosphates and nitrates that can end up in surface water on your property once snow melts. Elevated levels can cause the excessive growth of algae, and damage plants and wildlife.
When the weather outside is seasonably comfortable, outdoor chores are much more pleasant. Take advantage and pull out weeds growing in your lawn and plant beds. Do it now, and you'll have fewer weeds next season.
September through November are the best months to seed and fertilize your lawn. The cooler temperatures of the season provide the right environment for the seeds to germinate, and for the fertilizer to sustain dense, plush grass, rich in color.
To add to your lawns health, make sure to aerate it. Compressed soil inhibits water and nutrients from reaching the roots. Aerating your lawn removes small cores of soil from your lawn, which reduces soil compaction and promotes root growth for healthier grass.
It is always a good idea to keep your grass about 2 to 2 ½ inches tall. If you grass gets much taller, it can mat during heavy rainfall, which could lead to winter lawn issues such as snow mold. If you cut it shorter than 2 inches, you will limit your grasses ability to make and store food for growth, and encourage weed growth.
It is also a good time of the year to trim trees and shrubs that may have been overlooked during the spring, and cut back your perennials close to the ground. Check your trees and larger shrubs for lifeless branches as they can succumb to winter snow and winds, endangering you and your home. Protect small ornamental trees from further damage by cutting cracked, loose, and diseased limbs close to, but not flush with, the trunk so they can heal.
Don't forget to address any hardscape that may need some attention. Sidewalks, driveways, rocks, or pavers that may have been damaged during the summer season should be repaired for safety, function and beauty.
The fall is the best time to start thinking about colorful flowers sprouting in the spring. Consider checking with your local nursery or landscaper to identify which bulbs are best to plant now while the soil is still soft. Just make sure to plant them low enough in the ground to prevent your bulbs from freezing. You will love how your fall planting will lead to a beautiful garden in the spring.
While you may think the fall means that you are done with landscaping plant beds, think otherwise. Many landscapers believe the fall is the best season to install or replace plants and shrubs. The cooler temperatures and moister soil encourages strong root development, providing the ideal environment for newly installed landscaping to thrive. Adding a two to four-inch layer of organic mulch will help new plants keep warm during colder temperatures, and control water runoff and soil erosion.
For those with pools, it is important that it is properly prepared for winter. Unless you are draining it, your pool should be thoroughly cleared of fallen debris, leaves and bugs, and chemically treated to ensure the pool water is in balance. This will make for an easier opening in the spring.
Towards the end of the fall and before freezing temperatures roll in, remember to shut off water lines leading to the outdoors, and store hoses indoors. It is also a good idea to thoroughly clean and properly store any outdoor tools, furniture and cushions so they can be reused next season.
If you have a sprinkler system, winterize it! This includes draining the system and blowing out the lines with compressed air. Water left in sprinkler systems will expand when frozen, and will cause sprinkler piping and sprinkler heads to crack over the winter.
As with any home project, consult with a professional. The maintenance of your lawn requires an understanding of soil conditions, seasonal temperatures and the environment in which you live. The more knowledgeable you are about your lawn, and the type of species that will thrive, the more likely you will be happy with the results.
Gary Malandro, Owner Gary's Landscaping
(718) 761-2475 www.garyslandscaping.com