Just because the temperature has dropped doesn't mean you're off the hook for fall lawn care just yet. In fact, fall is your yard's favorite time of year! The warm days and cool nights create the perfect environment for your yard to soak up the nutrients it needs before settling in for winter. But it requires some help to get the most out of this season. Try these super simple tips to get your yard ready for winter so that it blooms bright in spring.
1. Cut the Grass
Yes, you still need to trim the lawn a few more times. Although many people believe that growing their lawn out before winter is good for it, the opposite is actually true. Long grass can house vermin under the snow, who can wreak havoc on your yard over winter. Instead, your yard should be cut regularly to keep it healthy. Mow the lawn as long as the grass is still growing and keep it between two and two-and-a-half inches until snow falls.
You should aerate your yard before winter comes. Aeration puts small holes throughout your lawn so that water and nutrients can sink into the roots. It shouldn't take long to aerate your lawn, no more time than it takes to mow it, but you do need a special tool. You can rent or buy an aeration tool at your local home or outdoor supply store. If your yard is heavily used, freshly laid, or often gets dried out, you may want to invest in an aerator and do it more often. Otherwise, once in the fall and spring should be fine.
3. Clear Leaves
Although raking leaves is a pain, leaving them on your lawn all season can seriously hurt your grass. In the fall, leaves block the all-important sunlight from reaching the grass blades, which they need to suck up nutrients and stay healthy. And during winter, leaves can grow mold and mildew and poison your grass or ruin your flowerbeds. After cleaning up leaves, don't just throw them into the landfill. Leaves make great mulch, and a compost pile can be turned into mulch and used to nourish your flowerbeds. Keep your leaves and use them to feed your garden.
Fall is the perfect time to fertilize your yard. You should apply fertilizer in late fall, just before it gets really cold and frosty outside, to give your lawn a good boost before winter. If you're unsure about what your yard needs from a fertilizer, you can get a soil sample tested to find out exactly what you need, but generally, a good fertilizer will have nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Potassium is important for fall fertilizing because it helps protect your grass against the cold.
5. Tame Your Flowers
Pull annual flowers and vegetables that have run their course, but leave the roots so they can help nourish the soil in your garden. For perennial plants, you'll just want to cut them back to the ground and then cover them with compost or mulch to keep the roots nourished over winter. You can add pulled or trimmed plants to your compost, but get rid of anything that has decayed or been infected. You don't want to put those diseases back into your garden with tainted mulch.
This is your last chance to pull those pesky weeds out of your lawn, flower beds, and garden. Make sure as you comb through your yard to pull the entirety of the weed out, roots and all. It's important to pull all the weeds you possibly can out of your garden. As you set it up with compost to help nourish the soil before spring, you can also inadvertently nourish troublesome weeds that will spring back stronger than ever after winter. You can use a weed killer, but don't use it after seeding your lawn if you choose to do so. That will kill all the healthy seeds you just laid down and keep your grass from those extra benefits.
7. Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Bulbs that bloom in spring require a chilling period to open. They are dormant when you get them, but will break open after being chilled. Since winter provides a natural chilling process, fall is the perfect time to plant these bulbs so that they're ready to bloom in spring. Dig and store spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, a few inches below the surface of the soil and cover those areas with nutrient-rich mulch to help feed the bulbs over winter.
A beautiful spring yard starts now. Take care to put your yard effectively to bed before winter and prep it for warmer temperatures in a few months. The more work you do now to nourish and tame your yard, the more you'll be able to enjoy it in the spring.