No matter where you live investing time to care for your landscape now will pay off with a healthier, more beautiful landscape next spring and for years to come.
Incorporate the following practices into your fall maintenance to support pollinators and the plants in your landscape.
Don’t rake the leaves to the curb or haul them to your municipality’s composting center. Instead, handle them with your lawn mower. Shred leaves and leave them on the lawn as you mow this fall. As the leaves break down, they add organic matter to the soil and as long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine.
Put any extra fall leaves to work in the garden. Add shredded leaves to your compost pile or dig them into annual gardens as a soil amendment. Just dig a two-to-three-inch layer of shredded leaves into the top 12 inches of annual or new planting beds. The leaves will decompose over winter and add organic matter to the soil.
By spring your garden bed will be ready for you to finish preparing and planting.
Spread some of the fall leaves on top of the soil around permanent plants as a mulch.
They help insulate the roots, conserve moisture, suppress weeds and as they break down, they improve the soil.
Fall mulching gives you a jump on next spring’s landscape chores. It also provides winter homes for some beneficial insects and insulation for bumblebee queens, frogs and others that overwinter in the soil.
Leave healthy perennials to stand over winter. They will add motion and texture to the landscape. The seed heads add beauty and many provide food for the birds.
Hollow stems of a variety of perennials provide winter homes for many native bees and other beneficial insects. This also increases winter survival: Research found perennials left standing are better able to tolerate the rigors of winter.
Be sure to cut back and dispose of any diseased or insect-infested plants.
Removing these reduces the source of disease and insect pest problems in next year’s garden. Use a bypass pruner to cut the plants back to just above the soil surface.
Continue watering throughout the fall and only during the day when soil and air temperatures are at or above about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trees, shrubs and perennials suffering from drought stress in fall and early winter are more subject to root damage and subsequently insect pest and disease problems.
Make sure new plantings, moisture lovers, evergreens and perennials in exposed sites are thoroughly watered when the top four to six inches are crumbly and slightly moist.
Add some new plants to the landscape this fall.
The soil is warm and the air is cool, providing excellent conditions for planting and establishing trees, shrubs and perennials.
Include some fall favorites like pansies, asters and mums to containers and garden beds for instant color and food for late-season pollinators. Many garden centers add healthy new plants to their inventory specifically for fall planting.
No matter where you live, or the size of your garden, get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of fall. And be sure to invest a bit of time and energy now to ensure your landscape is ready for the coming season ahead.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released “Midwest Gardener’s Handbook,” 2nd Edition and “Small Space Gardening.” She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Corona Tools for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ website is MelindaMyers.com.