Tips on fall lawn care and landscaping projects
Don’t wait until spring to start thinking about that new flower garden you want to plant or that outdoor patio you’ve always wanted for family cookouts.
Fall gives homeowners a great chance for landscaping and outdoor projects ranging from lawn care and gardening to decks and water features, highly rated landscapers say.
“Just because it’s fall, you don’t have to stop thinking about the outside,” says John Penton, owner of highly rated Penton Enterprises Lawn and Landscape in La Vista, Neb. “Fall is the most ideal time to plant plants, and a perfect time of year to start doing outdoor patios, water features and those types of projects.”
Consider the following landscaping and yard work this fall:
Fall weather provides the best time to seed and aerate your lawn, Penton says.
As the ground temperature drops, the percentage of seeds that successfully germinate rises, meaning better growth. Roots stay active during the winter, so proper lawn care in the fall means stronger and faster growth in the spring.
Aeration assists the growth process by loosening soil and allowing water and nutrients to reach grassroots. Homeowners can aerate their lawn with a lawn aerator machine, which uses spikes to loosen soil.
Homeowners should look for patches of lawn damaged by summer heat and over-seed those areas, Penton says. Over-seeding means to sow seeds in existing grass, as opposed to digging up the grass and starting fresh.
Germination takes about 10 to 15 days after sowing grass seeds. Homeowners should water their lawn on a daily basis during this period.
Homeowners who want a vibrant flower garden of daffodils or tulips in the spring need to start in the fall, says Vito Pelletiere, owner of highly rated Lunar Landscaping in Des Plaines, Ill.
“Fall’s the optimal time for spring colors,” he says.
Homeowners who plant bulbs in the fall give the flowers a chance to establish a strong rooting before winter. Plants devote most of their energy towards their roots during the fall, which is why autumn is such a great time to plant, Penton says.
Grass growth slows during the fall, but homeowners still need to mow.
Experts suggest mowing high to limit the stress on grass and allow deep root growth. Grass loses strength to produce chlorophyll for energy if cut too short.
Generally, homeowners should mow to a height of about 3 inches until their last few mows, when they can cut lower. Experts recommend following the 1/3 rule when mowing the lawn. This means don’t cut more than 1/3 of the overall height at once.
Homeowners should consider using mowers with mulch features to spray grass clippings onto the yard, which can add nitrogen to the lawn.
Late fall or early winter is a cooler time of year to trim shrubs and trees without stressing the plants, Penton says. Plants are typically less stressed in the late fall when they’re dormant and don’t need to deal with summer heat.
Homeowners tend to trim shrubs and bushes for a natural look, he says.
“You don’t see many squared bushes anymore,” he says.
Lawns and gardens require weed removal throughout the landscaping season, including fall, Pelletiere says.
Weeds can grow out of control if not removed continually, Penton says.
Consumers can use a broadleaf herbicide to treat yards for weeds. Herbicide works well in the fall, because the chemical can easily reach root systems, where plants devote most of their energy during the autumn season.
Homeowners who don’t want to work with herbicides can consider hiring a lawn care service provider.
Homeowners should fertilize during the fall, while lawn and plants devote most of their energy towards their roots, Penton says.
Experts generally recommend fertilizing twice during the autumn season: once in early fall with a high nitrogen fertilizer to strengthen new growth, and once in late fall with a high phosphorus fertilizer to strengthen root growth.
Homeowners can read bag labels to figure out the ingredients of their fertilizers. For example, a 100-pound bag with a content label that reads “25-5-10” contains 25 pounds of nitrogen, 5 pounds of phosphorus and 10 pounds of potassium. Bag labels include application instructions.
Consumers who don’t feel comfortable fertilizing their lawn should consider hiring a lawn care service provider.
Prices for lawn care vary based on the services homeowners want. For example, homeowners might pay between $80 and $100 a month for mowing, weeding and fertilization. In comparison, a yearly plan that includes flower-bed weeding, aeration and trimming could cost around $200 a month.
Hardscaping and outdoor features
Homeowners should inspect sidewalks and paths for cracks, Penton says. People still have time to fix damage before winter, when water can spill into cracks and freeze, pushing cracks farther apart.
Additionally, homeowners should check for cracks or structural damage on their driveways or the foundation of their home.
Along with maintenance, homeowners can consider new features they want to add to their yard, Penton says. Consumers could also add to the features they already have with extra touches, such as lamps along walkways.
“It’s the perfect time of the year to start looking at doing outdoor living spaces. Outdoor kitchens, outdoor patios, fire features, water features,” Penton says. “This is the time of year where, as the weather cools, people are going to start being outside and enjoying it. They’re going to start thinking, ‘hey, what about a fire pit out in the backyard we can all sit around and roast marshmallows.’”
Homeowners should consider meeting with landscapers to plan yard projects.
“It’s best to get a head start on spring during the fall,” Penton says.