Fall means enjoying a harvest of winter squash and raking up leaves, but that’s not all you need to do to get ready for the autumnal season. Just as you change out your summer tees for fall sweaters inside your home, you need to take some steps to make sure you’re ready for the changing seasons outdoors.
For grass lawns, take time in late summer to fight against heavy thatch buildup. Thatch is essentially a tangled, spongy network of dead plant matter that accumulates next to the soil and can prevent your grass from receiving adequate moisture and nutrients. A little bit of thatch is actually helpful for keeping your grass insulated, but if your lawn feels spongy underfoot and seems like it isn’t quite healthy, take the time to dethatch now.
Cooler weather is perfect for some other lawn-rehab techniques such as aeration, which improves lawn drainage. If you live in a climate that sees the bulk of its precipitation during fall, winter, and early spring, this is a particularly important step for your lawn. If necessary, you can spread out more grass seeds to thicken the turf, too.
Other Prep Steps
The other fall prep steps you take in your yard depend on factors such as what kind of plants you have and how soon hard freezes might set in, if they do at all in your climate. If you’ve been careful to landscape with native or hardy perennials, you can simply deadhead post-season flowers, prune back any plants that need a haircut for dormancy, shape and clean up any rampant growth, and give everything a careful once-over to make sure nothing looks like it’s infested, infected, or generally not thriving.
Early fall is a great time to remove any dead or dying plants, including those end-of-season annuals that did so well in the spring and summer. Dealing with those plants now means that you don’t have a collection of sad, crispy plants sitting outside just waiting to be dealt with when the sun makes its triumphant return. Plus, if you get to them early, you may be able to mulch and compost those fading annuals so they can boost next year’s garden.
Plants, turf and trees moving into the fall and colder weather benefit from a solid fertilization to generate winter hardiness and growth. A good general fertilizer like a 15-15-15 with iron and a minor nutrient package is perfect. High in phosphorus and potassium (the last two 15’s ) is great for helping the plant, trees and store food for the fall/winter and be ready to explode in color and growth when the time is right.