Get Your Yard Ready for Fall - Ten Must Do Gardening Tips

The days may be getting shorter and chillier, but there’s still plenty to do in and around your landscape! In fact, investing a little sweat-equity now can make next spring easier and more enjoyable, in many cases.

Here's a few quick reminders about things you should to do before calling it quits on your outdoor areas for the winter.

Don’t put the mower away just yet. Take a look at your lawn and if it’s looking just a little rough, give it one last trim. Does it need a pick me up? Maybe it's time to aerate, especially if you plan to overseed with a winter rye.

Get out the leaf-blower, or better yet use a rake; it’s quieter and burns off some calories! You need to get fallen leaves off your lawn if the grass is to come back strong next spring. Add the leaves to your compost, or shred them and use as a nutrient rich mulch.

Even though weeds might appear to die back as the winter approaches, that’s not a good reason to ignore them now! Nobody really enjoys the chore of weeding, but if you take the time to do so now, you will be removing literally thousands of weed seeds that would otherwise come back for a repeat performance next year.

If you need to transplant a deciduous tree or shrub, a good time to do so is once the leaves fall and before winter freezes harden the ground. There will be less trauma at this time of year, while the plant is in dormancy.

Bugs n’ slugs
If it’s been quite rainy recently in your area, chances are that slugs have moved in. Now is a good time to put down slug bait so you’ll have fewer hungry baby slugs to deal with in the spring. Take a look at your evergreen shrubs to see if you have bagworms. Pick off the bagworms and destroy them now to prevent new hatchings next year.

Fruit trees and bushes
With fruit trees or bushes, remove remaining large fruit and prune and shape - depending on the fruiting plant variety. Apple and cherry trees do best when pruned for shape in late winter. Blackberry and raspberry shrubs are bi-annuals so you will prune out the canes that flowered during the summer season. 

If you created a herb garden and still have a few herbs growing, now would be a good time to harvest them and freeze or dry them. As well as cooking with them, you can use the dried herbs as part of a fragrant wreath or table centerpiece.

Most plants can be pruned at this time or anytime during the winter months. However, spring flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned after they flower in spring. 

Soil samples
Fall is the best time to have soil samples taken. Have a sample analyzed will determine the pH balance of the soil and the balance of elements such as phosphorus and potassium. This relatively inexpensive test will provide you with important information before you spend lots of money on plants next spring. The test results will tell you if and how you need to treat the soil to ensure good results.

Outdoor Furniture
Wash off outdoor furniture and grill before putting into winter storage.

Plan ahead
 Looking to plant new trees or shrubs in your landscape? Plan their location now. When the leaves have fallen, you will get a clearer picture of where new planting will work best.  Consider elements such as proximity to walls, windows, overhead cables, buried utility lines and so on. Determine the MATURE height and width of the plants to make certain that there is plenty of space for their growth. Take advantage of some of these crisp, cool fall days to get some essential chores taken care of, and you’ll thank yourself next spring!