The things you must do to care for your lawn and landscaping change when fall and winter arrive. Fall brings mild temperatures and often moderate precipitation. It's a good season to perform restorative maintenance like fertilization and aeration. In winter, many plants either die or go into a time of no growth. Hard frosts and freeze/thaw cycles can wreak havoc on sensitive plants. Knowing what to do to prepare your lawn and landscaping for winter can help you protect your property, and ensure that your garden and lawn will be in good condition when spring and summer come around once again.
Soil can become compact after a summer of intense temperatures, especially if your lawn didn't get enough water over the course of the season. Aerating your lawn prevents and reverses compaction, encourages good root development and prevents thatch from building up.
You can aerate your own lawn by renting a lawn aerator, or by hiring a landscaping company to do this for you. After aeration, your lawn will be covered in small, muddy chunks of soil, but soon enough those pieces will dissolve back into the earth.
After aerating your soil, spread a thin layer of compost over the aerated area. Compost adds nutrients to the soil, restores the soil's natural texture, and prevents the soil from becoming hard again.
As the temperature outside drops, shallow roots become vulnerable to damage. Mulching around perennials and trees can protect these roots from the lowest temperatures. Mulch also keeps moisture in the ground, which can prevent some plants from drying out.
When mulching a vegetable garden, use undyed organic wood mulch. In a flower garden, feel free to use dyed mulches and mulches made from alternative materials. Spread the mulch on thick, but avoid piling mulch against the trunks of trees. Mulch piled against trees can lead to disease.
Re-Seed Your Lawn
Fall is a good time to re-seed your lawn. The cool temperatures are perfect for germinating seeds. Do this in mid-fall, when the last of summer weather has dissipated, but before the winter chill is in the air. Keep seeds well-watered for the first several weeks. Cut back your watering routine gradually until the new grass is hardy and healthy.
Fall is a good time to fertilize your trees. Cool (but not freezing) temperatures are good for root development. Fertilizing at the right time will encourage the roots of your trees to grow stronger before the coming winter. When temperatures drop, a well-fertilized tree will be better able to withstand the frost and ice.
Before fertilizing, follow all manufacturer instructions. Trees have varying fertilizer requirements depending on the species, age of the tree, whether it produces fruit, and so on. Purchase the fertilizer to match the needs of your tree. Most fertilizers are made for specific types of plants, so you can find the right kind of tree fertilizer for your lawn.
Planning in advance is a key part of growing a garden. Bulbs start growing in late winter and early spring as the ground thaws. Most bulbs need a period of cold weather before they will blossom. Plant bulbs in the fall to ensure that your bulbs will be ready to grow in spring. Tulips, daffodils and crocuses are common examples of bulb plants that need to spend time in the ground before they will sprout in early spring.
Rake your leaves regularly throughout the fall. Leaves left on the ground can lead to the growth of fungus in trees and plants. If left on the grass, leaves will starve the grass of sunlight and weaken the plant, causing disease. Leaves are a good ingredient for compost, so if you don't have a compost pile already, consider starting one now.
Continue to Mow Your Lawn
Grass continues to grow, even in fall. Allowing the grass to grow too long can lead to problems down the road. Continue to mow your lawn as needed, keeping in mind that grass may not grow as quickly in fall when temperatures are cooler. Strive to keep your grass the same length as it was when you were mowing it in summer.
Winterize Your Irrigation System
Water left in the pipes of your irrigation system can freeze in the middle of winter, causing the pipes to burst. Winterizing your irrigation system eliminates the water from the pipes to prevent this from happening.
If you're not able to keep up with lawn maintenance or are uncomfortable with certain DIY tasks, consider hiring a landscaping company to take care of your lawn throughout the winter and into the spring. Your lawn care company can help you keep your property in good condition, by tending the flowers, grass, trees and soil itself.