Another glorious autumn season has arrived -- and that means your lawn will require some serious fall yard maintenance. We know, we know -- that's not exactly your idea of fun, but your yard is quietly crying out for a little TLC before it drifts into the deep freeze of winter.
Good news: If you put in the time to tackle chores now, you'll be all set and sitting pretty come spring. Even better news: There are actually a few traditional fall maintenance tasks that the experts say you should actually skip!
Go ahead, read on to learn which chores to do and to avoid.
Things to do right off the bat
"It will give you a baseline level that might tell you to reduce the fertilizer you're applying, which will save you money and keep extra nutrients out of the environment," says Jeremy DeLisle, program coordinator for the University of New Hampshire Extension Education Center in Goffstown, NH. "It's important to pull the sample before the ground freezes."
So do it. Soil test results will tell you what your soil lacks and what amendments you should add to give green things a fighting chance to survive. That might mean adding compost or lime to soil before winter sets in, which will condition the soil so you're all set come spring when you start planting.
Meanwhile, established plants that have survived several winters will love a fall layer of mulch, which warms soil and helps retain moisture (which plants need even in winter).
In warmer climates, pre-chill spring bulbs for six to eight weeks in your fridge, then plant them in December or January. You'll have a shorter blooming season than your northern neighbors, but you should see some beautiful color before the weather turns hot.
While you're planting spring bloomers, don't forget to retrieve and pack summer bulbs such as dahlias, gladioli, caladiums, and elephant ears, which will rot in the ground during winter. Clean and store bulbs in a breathable container, like cardboard packed with sawdust, sand, or newspaper. Place in a cool (40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit), dry area. Check monthly during the winter, and toss any bulb that, despite your best efforts, has become mushy.
And one to cross off your fall maintenance list
"There's a shift in landscaping not to be overly tidy," says DeLisle. "Native pollinators use hollow stems to hibernate. Leave some of them standing."
Pollinators particularly like the stems of gladioli and black-eyed Susans. Still, you're not entirely off the hook: You should still collect and shred fallen branches; bag and toss diseased plants; and gather and store garden stakes and cages. But don't go crazy, OK?