Fall yard work is more than a series of chores. It’s an investment of time that may help prevent damage caused by winter’s frigid weather and set up your lawn and garden for a colorful spring display. Here are nine fall cleanup tips to help protect your home and get you on your way to creating a gorgeous yard next spring.
1. Handle Leaves
Matted leaves smother grass. But rather than rake them, you might take BobVila.com’s advice to mulch them, so leaves can decompose and add nutrients to the soil. The website says you can either swap your mower blade for a serrated option or use your mower as-is, making multiple passes to grind the leaves.
2. Target Weeds
Fall is when common weeds like dandelions and broadleaf plantains are most susceptible to weed killers, says Consumer Reports. So, if there are more weeds in your lawn than can be pulled by hand, you can apply a selective herbicide to kill them without harming the grass.
3. Care for Lawn
Fertilizing now can help your turf green up sooner in the spring, according to This Old House. The home improvement website recommends a high-phosphorus mix (labeled 12-25-12) to encourage root growth, and a final cutting down to about 1¼ inches to help minimize disease.
4. Plant Landscaping
Warm soil and cooler temperatures make this a good time to plant new landscaping, says This Old House. The basic method, the website says, is to dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball and set it in so the top of the root ball is at ground level. Then fill it in, water and top with mulch.
5. Transplant Shrubs
This is also a good time to relocate shrubs or flowers. Just use the same care as with new plantings, making sure to water regularly. You can also revive weak or overgrown perennials by dividing them, says This Old House. All you need to do is separate them into clumps and plant each one as a new specimen.
6. Manage Bulbs
Many of spring’s signature flowers, like tulips and alliums, are fall-planted bulbs. Dig a hole at least two times deeper than your bulb, and place it pointy side up, says Better Homes and Gardens. Late fall is also time to remove summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias. Gardenista suggests cutting back stems before digging out the bulb, and then letting it dry before storing it for winter.
7. Trim Limbs
Dead or dangling tree branches may fall in winter storms, so it makes sense to remove them now. Consumer Reports says you can use loppers, a long-handled scissor-type tool, to help take care of smaller jobs. But bigger branches may require a chain saw or even a pro.
8. Turn Off the Spigot
Closing your spigot for the season may help prevent a burst pipe during cold winter weather, says BrightNest, which suggests the following steps: Close the shutoff valve (likely in a crawl space or basement), and then go outside and detach and drain your hose. Then, turn on the spigot to remove any water in the pipe and go back in and locate the “bleeder valve” (a metal-capped valve near the shutoff valve). Drain the water from this valve, and you’re done.
9. Care for Tools
Before putting away your shovels, rakes and other hand tools, DIY Network suggests a good rinse with a stiff-bristled brush, followed by a thin coat of oil on the metal parts. Check blades and handles to see if they need sharpening or repair. Mowers need a bit more care. DIY Network says you’ll want to run the mower to remove the fuel, and then change the oil, remove spark plugs and sharpen or replace the blade.
All these preparations can feel like work, but remember that they’ll pay off after a long winter, when you may need it most.