With fall fast approaching, it's that time of year when we begin cleaning up our yards and preparing for the upcoming winter. To make fall cleanup work as fast and easy as possible, it can be helpful to break the work down into the different areas of your yard. The areas that most commonly need attention are trees and shrubs, the lawn, and vegetable or flower gardens.
Trees and shrubs often need to be trimmed back in the fall, though this will vary, depending on the type of plant. If you're unsure when to trim your trees or bushes, consult a gardening book or online resource. When doing any kind of trimming or pruning, basic safety precautions are of primary importance. If your trees are taller than 10 or 15 feet, it's best not to take the risk of doing the job yourself. Look for a qualified arborist who can do the work for you, and be sure to check out some references before hiring anyone to do the work. This can also be a good time to remove any old or dying trees, as well.
Lawns will need several kinds of care during the fall months. First, you'll want to rake up all the fallen leaves and any other debris from shrub and tree trimming. There are many types of leaf bagging devices on the market today that can make this job easier, such as leaf bag holders or special tarps designed to collect leaves and other debris while you are raking. Once all the leaves are removed, it's important to do one final mowing of the grass at the end of the year. Last but not least, a fall lawn application is also a good idea. Visit your local garden center or nursery for a recommendation of what type of product to use. When in doubt, a good all purpose fertilizer is usually fine.
The last area that will require some fall attention is your garden and planting areas. Your work here will vary depending on what types of plants you're working with. In the case of annuals, especially annual vegetable plants, it's best to remove the plants entirely at the end of the growing season. Some vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes, if left to rot in the cool fall weather, can transmit fungal diseases into the soil. These pests and fungi are often times capable of overwintering in the dirt, and can then cause problems with next year's crops. Once annual plants are removed, now is a good time to till the soil and add any fertilizers such as organic matter or other soil amendments. Finish the area off by adding a thick layer of mulch.
If the planting area in question is full of perennial plants, you'll probably want to consult a gardening book or website to see what maintenance, if any, is required. With most perennials, it's best to leave the plants alone and let them die back naturally during the winter months. It is a good idea to apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of each plant, too. In the spring, the dry, dead foliage will be easy to remove, making way for renewed growth.
Fall yard cleanup does require some work on your part, but nothing too difficult. With the basic steps we've outlined above, you will be rewarded by a yard, lawn, and garden that will look better than ever next spring.