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Fall Landscaping Tips

As another lovely summer draws to an end here in Ohio, Len’s Excavating & Landscape is busy as can be preparing the backyards and lawns of many residential and commercial customers for the next year’s growing season.

The cool temperatures and warm soil make the fall season a great time to add to and maintain a property’s landscape. The cool temperatures slow the plant’s growth above ground while the moist soil promotes strong root development. This season is ideal for planting because it helps the roots establish a solid system before winter hits. The cooler weather makes it easier for plants to adjust after being transplanted.

Before winter strikes a homeowner should clean up their flower beds and gardens. This means clearing away leaves, weeds, and plant debris. The removal of the leaves and plant matter reduces the risk of insects, diseases, and other pests from affecting and making a home of your landscaped areas during the following spring. The following are just a few tips for fall landscaping from Len’s Excavating & Landscape.

Lawn Care & Yard Work

Fall is also the best time of year to fertilize your lawn and get weeds under control. To keep your lawn healthy during the fall season we recommend:

Mow the grass. The grass should be kept at a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches. Some property owners recommend trimming the turf down to about 1¼ inches for the last cut of the season, believing that shorter grass is more resistant to disease. While disease may have a harder time taking hold of shorter grass, be careful not to cut the grass too low. Since grass plants produce the majority of their food in the upper part of the grass blade, grass cut too short may not fair well during a harsh winter.

A shorter lawn will also come in handy when the leaves begin to fall. The leaves will be more likely to blow across the lawn because they will not get stuck on the long blades of grass.

Water the lawn. Despite the cool temperatures, a lawn still requires regular watering to keep healthy during the fall. Watering should continue until about the time the ground begins to freeze. Proper watering during the fall helps the grass to survive during the winter.

Fertilize the lawn during mid to late October. Because grass roots keep growing until the ground temperature reaches about 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, it is suggested that a lawn be fertilized during the early fall season. A homeowner may want to have their lawn tested to see what nutrients the lawn specifically needs. A proper fertilizer application during the fall will provide the grass with the nutrients it will need to flourish during the coming spring.

Get rid of the weeds. Normally, the month of September is the prime time to rid a yard of weeds and other unwanted vegetation like dandelions and clover. Using weed killer in the fall seems to be more effective because the weeds are taking in the nutrients to store in their roots for winter, and thus they also take in the chemicals of the weed killer. Weeds can be removed by hand, or if needed, spot treated with herbicides.

Apply seed if needed. Reseed or overseed the lawn if it hasn’t grown in thick enough over the past season.
Aerate the soil. Sometimes the soil can become compressed and hard. In order for water and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass, the soil will need to be aerated. Aeration occurs when the soil is churned or loosened. For small yards a garden fork or pitch fork can do the job, but for larger areas there are walk behind aerators available.

An important tip to remember: When aerating, fertilizing, or seeding a lawn, always go over the lawn twice, with crossing paths so as to avoid unwanted stripes.

Raking Leaves

One of the best parts about living in Ohio during the fall season is the breathtaking changing of the leaves’ colors. But, once these colorful beauties start to fall from the trees they can be a bit of a pain to clean up. As kids, many of us spent a number of fall days raking up leaves, but why? It wasn’t simply just so the yard looked nice.

The lawns of the Northern U.S. grow what are referred to as cool season grasses. This means that during the cooler period of the year, mainly the fall, these grasses are the most active. But, a thick layer of leaves left on a lawn can slow the growth of these grasses by blocking out the much needed sunlight. This can lead to problems like mold and discolored lawn spots. Here are some helpful hints when it comes to managing the falling leaves:

  • To easily get the leaves from one spot into the yard to another without the hassle of bags and wheel barrels try raking them all onto a plastic tarp. Once they are raked onto the tarp, they can then be easily drug to their final destination.
  • Leaves shouldn’t be left on a lawn for more than 3 or 4 days. The thicker the layer of the leaves and the wetter they become, the sooner they should be raked up and removed.

For small amounts of leaves

If there are less than 2 inches of leaves covering the lawn you can simply use a lawn mower to shred them. After a few passes on the mower, the leaves will be turned into a thin, finely shredded, layer which will then in turn provide nutrients to the grass.

For larger amounts of leaves

Compost them! For property owners that have a compost bin or pile, the fallen leaves can be added to the compost to breakdown and be used for fertilizing and nutrients later.

Make mulch. Whole or shredded leaves can be used as mulch for spring or winter. They can be chopped and shredded by running a mower over them. But, be sure that the leaves and plant matter being shredded and mixed together are not contaminated. If a tree has a disease or fungi, that same condition can be carried with the shredded leaves and plant matter, causing the trees and plants where the mulch is later spread to contract such disease or fungi.

Bag them! Sometimes there are just too many leaves. If you find yourself with no use for the leaves then be sure to rake them up and bag them. Many cities and municipalities provide their residents with a leaf pick-up day on which they will retrieve and remove the bagged leaves.

Getting the Garden Good to Go

In the fall, when all of the garden’s glorious fruits and vegetables have been harvested and the greenery dies, next year’s garden preparation can begin.

  • All plant debris should be removed from the garden. Any plant that is no longer growing or producing fruit or vegetables in your garden can be cut down and removed.
    • If the debris appears disease free then it can be used as compose, otherwise the debris should be disposed of.
  • Remove all weeds from the garden. If they are not removed, the weeds, or their seedlings will return in the spring.
  • Once the garden has been cleared and cleaned up, the soil can then be tilled. It’s recommended that a layer of compost, leaves, or grass clippings be added before tilling the soil.
  • FYI, the snails and slugs that feed on the pretty flowers and vegetation during the spring and summer breed during the fall. So removing plant debris and cleaning up the landscape during the fall can decrease the following years slug population, instead of leaving it all there for the slugs to enjoy and grown on.

Fall Tips for Flowers:

A beautiful flower bed is not made in an instant. Sometimes it can take long term planning, persistent maintenance, and some hard work. Here are a few fall flowering tips that Len’s Excavating & Landscape would like to share with you:

  • Have your soil tested to find out what is lacking and what nutrients need to be added or adjusted for optimum growth the next season.
  • Fertilize the lawn but not the flowers. Adding fertilizer to flowers like perennials in the fall will only cause unwanted growth and the plants will have exerted all that energy for nothing, which may affect the flowering and growth during the spring.
  • Once the early frost kills the tops of the plants, dig up all summer bulbs like the gladiolas and begonias. Brush the dirt off of the bulbs and store them in a cool dark place until they are ready to be planted again.
  • Trim the dying perennial foliage down to the ground so that more energy will flow to the roots, preparing it for next season’s growth.
  • Remove annuals which are no longer flourishing. These annuals can now be changed out for the fall colors like mums and pansies.
  • October is the best month for planting spring bulbs. To be sure that your tulips, daffodils, crocus and such bloom beautifully in the spring get them safely nestled in the ground during the fall.
  • Do not cover rose bushes until late in the year after they have gone dormant and the soil is nearly frozen. Long branches can be trimmed if needed, but serious pruning can be saved until the spring.
  • For tuberous plants that become crowded or overpopulated, like daylilies and irises, try dividing and removing a portion of the plants every 3 years or so to make more space for other flowers to grow.
  • Garden and plant retailers often offer fall discounts on their plants and inventory! So take advantage of the seasonal sales to snag the best price for plants.

New Plants:

  • Be sure to remove all labels, wire, twine, string, and other packaging material from the plant. If not removed, the stems or trunk of the plants can grow into them and cause damage or act as a girdle.
  • New trees and shrubs can be watered until the time the ground begins to freeze. Be sure not to overwater. The top few inches of soil can be checked for moisture to determine whether or not the appropriate amount of water is being given. After the ground begins to freeze, the plants should not be watered any more. Good levels of moisture in the soil will impact how well the plants make it through the winter and into the next spring. If the yard receives less than 1 inch of rain every 10 days, watering should be done.

Trees:

  • Be sure to trim your trees. Remove any sprouts or sprigs growing near the bottom of the tree and on large crossing branches
  • Prune and remove any damaged, diseased, or dead branches. Dead branches, large or small, can crack and fall under the pressure of winter snow and wind. They can easily fall causing damage to property and quite possibly injury to people.

Mulch:

  • After a light frost, but before the ground freezes, give your plant beds a new layer of mulch. First till or mix already decomposed mulch into the soil, if the bed has been mulched before. Then apply a fresh layer of mulch.
    • Add mulch to your flower beds so that about 3 to 4 inches of mulch is in flower beds and surrounding trees. Do not exceed 4 inches of mulch. The mulch will help to control weeds, maintain moisture, and enhance the soil’s nutrients providing nourishment to the plants. Not only is the mulch good for the plants, it also insulates the plant and tree’s roots to protect from the cold and frost, prevents soil erosion, and adds aesthetic beauty to the overall landscape.

Misc. Tips:

  • Clean bird feeders if not done recently.
  • Properly store all chemicals to keep the chemical from freezing.
  • Cover any water gardens, ponds, or waterscapes with nylon netting to keep out the leaves and debris.
  • Before it gets too cold out, be sure to turn off, drain, and properly store all water hoses, sprinkler systems, irrigation systems, and such. Standing water will freeze and expand, causing cracks and damage to whatever may be containing it.

Len’s Excavating & Landscape hopes that you found these fall landscaping tips to be helpful. For any further landscaping questions or concerns, call the experts at Len’s Excavating & Landscape today! Remember, the grass is always greener at Len’s!