Down to Earth Tips for Fall Gardening

Autumn trees put on an eye-catching show of colors and demonstrate the earth’s gravitational pull of falling leaves. Gardening and yard maintenance also play starring roles during Mother Nature’s fall series, so it’s important for homeowners to not have a false sense of security that their yards will need less attention. October and November are the best months to take advantage of comfortable weather for planting and yard work instead of during the steamy days of summer. The time you invest on your lawn or garden will help you to reap blooming benefits next spring. Get ready to dig in and feel better knowing you’re taking the proper steps to put your garden to bed this Fall.

Fall gardening

One of the wonderful things about fall is that you can continue to plant hearty vegetables. Gardeners can plant up to six weeks before the ground freezes. In most regions, mid-November is a safe-planting deadline. Collards, kale, broccoli, spinach, beets, radishes and other herbs can tolerate hard frosts. However, homeowners can place floating row covers to protect young seedlings. Several of these leafy beauties will continue to thrive in the garden weeks after the first hard frost and produce extra sugars, which will make them even more delicious for winter recipes.

It’s also a great time to fall in love with planting fall herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme. These easy-to-grow plants flourish in landscape beds or containers.

Good for the soil

Improving the soil in your yard will allow it to fend off pests and diseases, retain water and allow it to produce a more vibrant lawn. Summer activities such as yard parties, active kids or pets may contribute to soil compaction. Aeration allows fertilizer, oxygen and water to penetrate your lawn’s roots. For best aeration results, you will need to thoroughly water your grass two days in advance. Proper watering helps the aerator to extract soil cores. Homeowners can rent core aerators from garden centers for about $30 to $75 for a few hours.

After you finish aerating your grass, apply grass seed and fertilizer.

Revitalize with fertilizer

Fertilizer provides nutrients for the grass to grow deep roots and nurture your yard’s health through spring. It is recommended to use a walk-behind drop spreader for all grassy areas. This process will ensure that you spread an application evenly. Make sure that you do not miss any spots. Apply lawn fertilizer two to three weeks before the ground freezes. Homeowners should mark their calendars to prepare for the first frost date in their areas.

Mow, mow, mow your lawn

Just because it’s cooler outside, it doesn’t mean it is time to put your lawnmower back in the garage. Toward the end of fall, drop your lawnmower’s blade to its lowest setting to allow additional sunlight to reach the surface of the grass. If you cut your grass too low, it could put it in danger of sprouting those pesky weeds. About 2 inches tall is best for most lawns.

Raking up isn’t hard to do

Even though it’s fun to shuffle through piles of fallen leaves, homeowners should resist from letting them pile up in the yard. Thick layers of leaves can smother your grass and create a higher risk for diseases.

Good news: You don’t have to rake up all of the leaves. A thin layer of autumn leaves, especially those that have been shredded by a lawnmower, spread evenly over the grass is an excellent source of high-carbon material for your compost.

Composting with care

You can also buy bags of compost from a local gardening store or you can make your own. Making compost takes a little work for first-time gardeners, but it’s more cost-efficient and is beneficial to the life of your garden and yard.

To make your own compost: Put shredded leaves into a compost bin along with nitrogen-rich freshly cut grass and kitchen scraps such as coffee grounds and fruit peels. Try to maintain a balance of 2/3 carbon-rich shredded leaves and 1/3 nitrogen-rich materials in the compost pile. Add a few layers of extracted soil cores from aeration to the mix.