Autumn is the most wonderful time of the year! For landscaping, that is. It’s also beloved for its cooler temperatures, bright colors and playful décor. If you truly want to appreciate all that fall has to offer, then it’s time to plan for some landscape maintenance.
Just as you prep your gardens and grounds for spring, so must you do the same for fall. And while the end result will be just as beautiful, the tasks that get you there will be different. These are a few of the key landscape maintenance steps that you should take during fall so that you can continue to enjoy your outdoor space throughout the season – and even get it ready to bloom again in spring.
Put On Your Weeding Gloves
Did you know that certain types of common weeds are more vulnerable to weed killers during fall? If you’ve got an abundance of clover or dandelion, to name a few, fall is a great time to eliminate them. You can either choose to pull them out by hand if the job is easy enough, or apply selective herbicides to trouble spots.
Be sure to apply herbicide before the weeds enter dormancy. If you wait too long, you’ll only kill the leaves and stems, but the roots will remain intact to bloom again. But if you apply the herbicide during fall before they enter dormancy, you’ll be hitting them at the perfect time when they’re moving energy reserves into their roots – and the herbicide will go right along with it!
Prune… Or Not
Autumn is the ideal time for some pruning, but not everything should fall under the shears. Start by cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses close to the ground. Pruning done properly will allow your plants to develop healthy new growth and maintain their shape next spring. You can leave some tall grasses for winter interest and beauty.
Some flowering plants benefit from being pruned during fall. Butterfly bush and delphinium are two examples of flowering plants that can be trimmed nearly to the ground after they’re done blooming. Divide crowded tuberous plants like daylilies and iris to make more space for blooms next spring.
Certain plants, however, should never be pruned in fall. Forsythia, azalea, lilac and rhododendron – plants that flower in early spring – should not be pruned during fall or you will cut off the growth of new flowers for next spring. These are best trimmed after bloom, typically in early June here in New Jersey.
Prune dead or broken limbs from trees, as these can be dangerous if they fall during an autumn or winter storm.
Otherwise be very cautious about pruning trees. It’s easy to damage branches, and with energy stores being moved to their roots during fall, trees will not have time to heal before winter sets in.
Harvest Vegetables Before The Frost
If the weather is right, you can keep that zucchini coming long after you’ve used up every recipe in the book. But every gardener at some point knows the pain of walking out to a lost crop after an unexpected nighttime cold snap.
Autumn can be unpredictable. You’re tanning by the pool one day and pulling out the winter woolens the next. If you’re still nursing that last batch of tomatoes, you’re better off picking them early than waiting too long. If nighttime temperatures drop into the low 60s, it’s probably time to start thinking “fried green” instead of canning.
On the other hand, there are some delectable fall vegetables that can withstand cooler temperatures and even frost. Cabbage and kale are hearty fall greens, and beets can grow right up to the first freeze. Broccoli and parsnips do well in cool soil, and some vegetables, like radishes and carrots, actually taste better when harvested late in the cooler weather. For those who love Brussels sprouts, you’re in luck – this tasty dish will usually be the last veggie standing at the end of autumn and even into winter.
Fall isn’t just time to wind your garden down. It’s also the ideal time for new plantings, whether they’re for autumn beauty or in preparation for a spring bloom.
Cool-season annuals like pansies, primrose, begonias and our friend the cabbage can be planted now, and will often last right through to winter.
Fall is also the right time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Crocus, daffodils, hyacinth and tulips should be planted during fall, typically no later than mid- to late-October here in New Jersey. Planting now means they’ll be ready to bloom in spring.
Planting shrubs in fall, especially evergreens, not only adds color and visual interest to your space during dormant seasons but gives them a head start on spring blooming. It’s easier for these plants to establish roots in cooler, moist soil, which means you’ll have better luck planting them in fall than spring or summer.
Spruce It Up
“Spring cleaning” may have staked its claim to fame in our collective consciousness, but fall cleaning your landscape is just as important.
Clean up leaves and debris like fallen branches and twigs, but don’t get out the vacuum cleaner! Strategically letting some leaves and branches remain can create beauty and visual interest by using what Mother Nature has already provided.
Remove any dead plants, and either prepare the ground for spring by planting bulbs, shrubs or simply mulching, or intersperse those cool-season bloomers for color.
Winter is not always kind to outdoor décor so consider moving any delicate and beloved pieces indoors or into a garage. Planters may or may not survive the winter, depending on how brutal the freeze-thaw cycle is during any given year. If you truly cannot live without one, move it to a warmer location. Otherwise, fall is also a great time to redecorate.
As greenery fades, put those planters to good use with seasonal inspiration. Bunches of tall branches (think: the lovely white of birch), holly leaves and berries, or tall grasses and reeds can be striking additions to porches and walkways. And of course, no fall landscape is complete without at least one pumpkin or uniquely shaped gourd to herald the season!
Winterize Your Pond
This task is a topic unto itself – and indeed we’ve written plenty on the subject! You can learn the key steps that go into preparing your pond for fall and winter here, so if you have a pond, now is the time to ensure that it’s safe and healthy until next spring.[Take These Steps This Fall For A Healthy Pond Next Spring](https://www.groundskeeperinc1973.com/take-steps-fall-healthy-pond-next-spring/)
Keep in mind that closing your pond for the season doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. You may, for example, opt to leave your waterfall running rather than shut it down for winter. Waterfalls and other bubbling water features can become stunning winter ice sculptures. The key is to prepare properly so that you can enjoy water features through the seasons while still protecting your pond and the critters that live in it.
Fall is a stunning time of year to enjoy your outdoor space. With some planning, preparation and maintenance, you’ll be in a perfect position to appreciate its beauty and bounty. If you’d like to prepare your yard for fall, whether with maintenance or a revamp, let us know. We’ll prepare a proposal and estimate for providing you with exactly the services you need.