The leaves are changing color, the days are getting shorter, and most gardeners are wrapping up this year’s drought-challenged growing season. But even though you’re spending a little more time indoors as the weather gets chillier, your lawn and garden still need your attention. Neglecting your lawn and garden’s autumn needs can leave them vulnerable to pests and diseases, and put a serious damper on next year’s chances for gorgeous green grass and juicy, sweet tomatoes. A good fall cleanup will give you a head start in making your lawn and garden the best they can be.
Lawn-mowing season may be coming to a close where you live, but your lawn still needs your help to look its best. First, fall is an ideal time to send soil samples for analysis for both your lawn and garden, to find out what nutrients your soil may be lacking.
Next, fertilize cool-weather grass with about 1 to 4 pounds of slow-release organic fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of grass that gets full sun. This is also a good time of year to plant cool-weather grasses in areas that need beefing up.
Now, help your lawn and garden by pulling any weeds that may still be hanging around. Although there are fewer weeds popping up this time of year, the stragglers are busy pulling nutrients from the soil, robbing your grass, flowers and vegetables of the rich soil they will need to be their best in the spring.
Finally, prepare your lawn for a long winter’s sleep by continuing to mow until it stops growing. Bob Vila recommends mowing the grass a bit shorter–to a height of about 2 inches–this time of year. It’s also important to rake regularly, to prevent piles of leaves from blocking the sun and creating “bald spots” in next spring’s lawn. To prevent waste, consider gathering the dead leaves together for use as mulch.
It may be tempting to forget about your vegetable garden once the harvest is over, but good garden planning and garden maintenance are key parts of how to make a garden a real winner.
First, remove the remnants of this year’s plants, such as dead tomato plant stalks. These garden leftovers aren’t only ugly–they can also be good homes for pests and plant diseases, which can hide away in the dead plant material during the winter and attack your new garden come spring. Till the soil to break up pest habitats, so you will have fewer garden-eating bugs to deal with next year.
Next, prepare any over-wintering plants such as garlic, oregano, chives or thyme with a good layer of protective mulch. For herbs that won’t survive the colder weather, fall is a good time to take cuttings from your herb garden to grow indoors during the winter. Use clean scissors to cut 3- to 4-inch-long stalks, trim the leaves from the bottom third, dip the ends in a root-stimulating solution, and plant them in light soil mix.
Your lawn and garden tools work hard for you, and they need a little autumn TLC. First, round up all of your manual tools such as shovels and trowels, and clean off any dirt with a rag or a wire brush. Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the business end of metal tools to prevent rusting. Disinfect seeding equipment with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, and allow the equipment to dry completely before storing it. Then put your tools in their proper places so you’ll be able to find them quickly in the spring, instead of rummaging through the garage while you should be planting your tomatoes.
For motorized tools such as the lawn mower and tiller, drain the gasoline from the tank and store it in an approved gasoline container. This will help prevent water condensation in the tanks. Next change the oil, disconnect the spark plugs and store the machines in a place that will keep them safe from the elements.
Finally, disconnect and drain your garden hoses and sprinklers and store them for the winter.
Clean Outdoor Surfaces with Wet & Forget Outdoor
Fall is the perfect time to get rid of ugly algae, lichen, moss, mold and mildew on your outdoor surfaces with Wet & Forget Outdoor. Wet & Forget Outdoor’s gentle process will use autumn’s wind and rain to remove problem growths such as slippery algae on your deck, damaging moss on your roof, lichen on your bricks or mold and mildew on your awning. Just spray and forget about it, Wet & Forget does the work for you! Tackling these problems now will help you get a jump-start on a beautiful spring!
(Photo by David Goehring)