|Fall maintenance is essential for a lush green lawn next year. This is the time to reseed bare patches and pull weeds before they go to seed, but a healthy lawn is about more than appearances. Since lawns get compacted from foot traffic over the active summer months, homeowners should aerate lawns each fall to allow air, water, and nutrients to reach plant roots. A garden fork will do the job just fine, but renting or buying a plug lawn aerator speeds up the process. If you want to invest in an aerator, look for promo codes and coupons or in-store savings at stores like Lowes.
While it’s common advice to fertilize lawns every year, adding fertilizer to a lawn that doesn’t need it pollutes the local water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends applying fertilizer in moderation and only when necessary. A soil test kit lets you find out if your yard needs fertilization and which nutrients it’s lacking. You’ll get the most accurate and comprehensive results by sending a sample to the soil testing laboratory recommended by your local cooperative extension. Your local garden center or nursery can also provide at-home kits, and they often offer end-of-summer discounts, so be on the lookout for deals.
|Fall garden clean-up saves you labor in the spring. It’s also an opportunity to add to your garden’s soil organic matter and fertility. As you clear out dead plants and debris, remember that bare ground is bad for your garden’s health. Exposed earth is vulnerable to being blown or washed away in windy and wet weather. This strips the topsoil, those upper few inches of dirt that hold the majority of the nutrients plants need to grow.
Rather than pulling plants out of the ground, cut them down at the base of the plant and leave roots in the soil. As root systems decompose, they provide nutrition to the beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil. Once old plants are cleared out, consider how you can keep the ground covered over the winter. Planting a cover crop, especially a legume like clover or vetch, adds organic matter and nitrogen to the earth. However, cover crops can add spring labor, as gardeners must till in the plants before new crops go in. For a labor-saving alternative, consider mulching your garden or covering it with a tarp to prevent erosion and maintain moisture. To keep your budget in check, look for coupons on sites like JoinHoney and Coupons.com for your favorite garden center. It’s worth it to spend a little extra for mulch and a tarp, because covered soil also stays warmer than bare earth, which means a head start on spring planting.
As you gather dead plants out of your garden, don’t throw them in the trash bin. When green waste ends up in a landfill, it becomes a significant source of harmful greenhouse gases. Composting plant matter instead not only reduces its environmental impact, it also can be an incredible source of fertility for the backyard garden. When dead plants, fallen leaves, shredded branches, and fruit and vegetable scraps decompose, they turn into the rich soil-like material known as compost. By creating compost and adding it to the garden before planting in the spring, gardeners can improve the quality of their soil year after year, not to mention save money on buying soil to keep their gardens lush. Compost is best created in a bin that’s easy to turn and aerate, like these DIY compost tumbler designs from Homesteading.com, which can all be made on the cheap.
Healthy soil is the foundation for a beautiful landscape, and although it’s worth the investment, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to maintain. As you’re working outside this fall, think about how you can improve the health of your lawn and garden for a more vibrant growing season.
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