As experts in landscaping in Columbus Ohio, we like to offer you the best advice for the best lawn and landscaping come Spring.
We're nearing the end of the fall season, don’t assume your gardening responsibilities are over! As a matter of fact, doing some prep work for your landscaping getting ready for the winter months, will reward you come spring as well as give you piece of mind.
The fall season is definitely the time to get your lawn in top shape, and many homeowners are still mowing their lawns into November, and the last application of fertilizer should be applied in the fall just before it gets really cold. By doing this, the fertilizer will add more nitrogen in the ground, and by doing that, you lawn will be able to store up energy for the spring.
Aerate your lawn
If rainfall pools on the grass, it's time to aerate compressed soil so water and nutrients can reach the roots. A garden fork can do the job on a small yard, but for larger lawns Roger uses a walk-behind aerator that pulls out 2½-to 3-inch-deep soil plugs, which will break down naturally by spring.
Feed your grass
Cutting back on fertilizer in late summer prevents perennials from wasting energy on leaf production. "But grass roots keep growing until the ground gets down to around 40 degrees," says Roger, "so this is a good time to feed them." Apply a high-phosphorus (12-25-12) mix to lawns in fall to encourage roots, so turf greens up earlier in spring.
Mow one more time
Trim your lawn down to 1¼ inches for the last cut of the season. Disease has a harder time with shorter grass and fallen leaves blow across the lawn because they have nothing to latch on to. Don't go too low, though: Grass makes most of its food in the upper blade.
To make fallen leaves easier to transport, rake them onto a plastic tarp. Roger adds them (along with leaves he's cleared from the gutters) to a compost bin—a simple chicken-wire pen will do. Flip the leaf pile every week with a garden fork to aerate; the "black gold" that results next year can nourish lawns, flower beds, and shrub borders.
Plant new shrubs
In many parts of the country, planting shrubs in early fall gives the plants a head start at establishing roots in the season's cool, moist soil. The basics: Dig a hole (twice the diameter and to a depth of 2 inches less than the full height of the root ball); position the shrub in the hole (make sure the top of the root ball remains at, not below, ground level); fill in with soil; water to settle soil; add more soil to top of root ball (don't pack soil down with foot); mulch.
Trim dead limbs
Lifeless branches can succumb to winter snow and winds, endangering you and your home. "For big jobs, call in the pros," says Roger. But you can protect small ornamental trees from further damage by cutting cracked, loose, and diseased limbs close to (but not flush with) the trunk; leave the wounds exposed to heal.
Cut back perennials
A little work now results in healthier spring beds: Evict tired annuals, as well as the snails and slugs that feed on them, which breed in fall. Trim spent perennial foliage down to the ground; this sends energy to the roots, for next season. Every three years, divide crowded tuberous plants, like irises and daylilies: More space means more flowers.
Mulch young plants
Give new beds a layer of mulch—chopped leaves, weed-free straw, or wood chips—after a light frost, but before the ground freezes. Till decomposed layers of organic mulch into the soil, then apply a fresh 2- to 4-inch layer (more will smother roots) to keep new plantings warm and to control water runoff and soil erosion.
Dry our drip systems
Standing water can freeze and crack drip-irrigation tubing. For simple systems, Roger shuts the water off, unscrews the tap-joint adapter, and, using a high-volume, low-pressure setting on his compressor, inserts an air hose where the system normally attaches to the tap. "Blowing the water out avoids having to uproot the entire system."
Fall is the season to develop a lusher, greener, healthier lawn. This is the time for aerating, the critical time for fertilizing, and mowing shorter than usual. Plus, even though the grass is entering its big sleep for winter; you’ll need to stay on top of the watering. All of this is to prepare your grass for its wake-up call in the spring. You’ll want it waking up with a belly-full of food, hydrated and free from disease. Here’s how to give your lawn everything it needs this fall.