Start preparing in fall for a glorious garden in spring

Start preparing in fall for a glorious garden in spring

While many homeowners think of spring and summer as the ideal seasons for lawn and garden maintenance, highly rated landscapers say proper prepping in fall actually leads to a lusher spring growth.

Angie's List spoke to Misty Kuceris of Burke Nursery and Garden Centre in Burke, Virginia, Chad Creech of Green Clippers Lawn Care & Landscaping in Leesburg, Georgia, and Ronald Snow of Sapphire Landscape of Mesquite, Texas, about why fall is a great time to start preparing lawns and landscaping for the spring growing season.

1. What type of lawn or garden maintenance should occur in the fall?

Kuceris: The biggest thing is if you have perennials in the yard, then it’s important to cut them back. You can also divide plants, such as your day lilies. The other thing that’s real critical to do is to add some sort of organic compost in the garden. After you add the organic compost, you want to add 2 inches of mulch.

Plant your spring bulbs in the fall — that’s real important. They need the cold of the winter in order to come up beautiful for the spring. The colder the winter, the better for the bulbs. Fall is the best time of year to plant trees and shrubs. The hydrocarbons in the soil are at their strongest, so the roots grow the strongest.

Creech: Put down chemicals to prevent winter weeds from popping up in your flower beds. Put down mulch or pine straw. Trim your shrubs. Add seasonal color — mums would be one of the more popular plants that people put down in the fall.

Related: Why Mums are the Perfect Fall Flower

Snow: We put in fall mulch, and we put in what we call a fall flower bed of color. That’s going to be the time that we start to rake leaves. We keep the leaves up off the ground because if you let leaves stay, they’ll start to rot and cause problems with your grass and bring disease like mold.

2. Is there anything I can do to get a head start on spring?

Kuceris: Let the soil marinate during the winter months. In the fall, make sure it has enough nourishment so it can make it through the winter. Properly composting is what provides the nourishment. I highly recommend it. We’re not talking a lot of compost, just adding 2 inches of compost, but mixing that into the existing soil.

Creech: Some people tell you to put down fertilizer to winterize your yard. I’m not a proponent of that. If you want your grass to be green all winter, you put out rye grass.

Snow: Any pruning on hedges or bushes needs to be done between December and February. If you cut back the hedges and trim the bushes during summertime, that’s when all the sap comes out. You can trim them, but if you want to prune them, you need to do that in late fall or winter. Another thing you want to do is dethatch the grass.

3. What can I expect to pay to prepare my landscaping for winter?

Kuceris: Anywhere between $300 to $2,000. You’re not just talking labor but materials, mulch and disposal fees. You’re preparing it, believe it or not, for spring

Related: Don't Neglect Fall Lawn Care and Maintenance

Creech: It depends on what kinds of plants and how extensive you want to be. It depends on the size. If you want it to look really good for the fall and winter, you’re looking at $300 to $400 on the low end.

Snow: To do a general cleanup is anywhere between $199 to probably $600. If you want a complete flower bed installed — new mulch, new flowers, etc. — that can get a little bit higher, but for a general fall cleanup you can expect to pay around $199.

4. Can I make compost from the plants or use chopped leaves as mulch?

Kuceris: If you’re going to use leaves for compost, you need to make sure they’re shredded. You need to mix it in with the existing soil if you use leaves; otherwise, the leaves won’t break down. You need to be careful if you use grass clippings for compost. If you put down any weed killer, you can’t use grass.

Creech: You can if you’ve got a compost pile. You wouldn’t want to include any kind of diseased foliage in your compost pile.

Snow: You can actually do that. That’s the real green thing to do, especially when you do the scalping of the lawn. All that stuff is pulled out and you can turn that into compost. Make sure it’s not around the house, because it tends to draw termites. The compost will go through a chemical process, so you have to make sure to stir and water it.

Need professional help? Get tips on hiring a landscaper.

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