As summer draws to a close your yard becomes worn out from the summer heat and the dry air. It also needs to be replenished with nutrients that can prepare the soil for the upcoming spring season. This is why lawn preparation is extremely important for those who want to keep their plant life looking vibrant all year long. Rather than waiting for April or May to arrive, the smarter solution is to begin cultivating your yard in late September through October. This gives your turf plenty of time to aerate, thus reducing compaction and allowing the fertilizer and water to feed the roots more effectively.
Invest in some mulch to spread. Mulching in the fall helps protect the root systems of plants from frost, and it also aids in the retention of moisture throughout winter, when cold and dry conditions can cause damage.
Remove dead or dying landscaping, but don’t prune. Pruning will encourage them to grow, rather than going into dormancy the way they should in winter; tidying things up will help clear out the clutter so that things are clean and look well-maintained until spring.
Wrap up shrubs that are delicate in burlap, use shredded leaves to protect the roots of your less hardy trees, and place overturned plastic pots and buckets over small plants to keep them from being damaged by snow, ice, and strong winds.
Take advantage of cooler weather during fall, when temperatures are moderate enough to provide ideal conditions for young plants to take root after being newly planted. The ground is also still soft, and fall is generally a period when rain showers happen more regularly, so it’s the perfect opportunity to add new plants or shrubs to your landscaping. An even bigger bonus is the sales that often take place in fall when garden shops and nurseries need to clear out their inventory.
Cutting Back Perennials– Most perennials should get cut back in the fall. Not only for aesthetic reasons but also to remove any debris which could be harboring insect and disease pests. Plants such as Echinacea (coneflower) or Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed-Susan’s) can be left up to feed the birds but they won’t be pretty to look at. Some perennials should be left until spring due to poor cold tolerance.
Fertilizing– Fertilizing isn’t a fall must, but because we often remove all of our leaves from the beds –and all the wonderful natural fertilizer that they contain – it doesn’t hurt. Taking the time to fertilize in the fall will strengthen your plants’ roots, giving them a strong base on which to thrive next spring.
What do all the numbers mean? – You need to first understand the formula. There are three numbers on a bag, bottle, or can of fertilizer. It might read 14-14-14. This is the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). Nitrogen promotes foliage growth, phosphorus helps root growth, and potassium promotes cell function and absorption of trace elements. That being said, a fertilizer high in nitrogen would not be recommended because you do not want to promote new growth. Choose one with a higher middle number to promote root health.
Organic vs. Inorganic? The answer to this question often depends on your garden’s needs. 1. Organic: Organic fertilizers are composed of natural ingredients from plants or animals. They rely on soil organisms such as earthworms to break down organic matter. Because of this process, it is a slow release fertilizer. Organic fertilizers improve the overall health of the soil. 2. Inorganic: Inorganic fertilizers can be slow or quick-release. They are good for plants which need plenty of nutrients for a short amount of time such as bedding annuals. The concentrated form increases the risk of burning the plant if applied incorrectly, and the quick-release of nutrients may result in soil leaching.