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Autumn Yard Care Assures a Healthy Yard come Spring

After a flurry of work managing yards and gardens during the summer growing season, many homeowners are ready to take a break from outdoor activities. Unfortunately, handling autumn lawn care tasks is necessary to assure that the lawn, trees, and plants are healthy come springtime. Fortunately, the fall to-do list is easy—and will vary somewhat by climate. But in general, here’s what you can expect on your outdoor chore list:

Mow and kill weeds as usual. Mowing remains a good idea, as long as grass continues to grow. Weeding is also fine in fall, both in the form of digging up weeds by the roots (recommended for weeds such as dandelions) and via pesticide application.

Rake and manage leaves. It may sound simple and obvious, but letting leaves pile up for too long, especially in a moist environment, can choke the grass beneath, leading to “dirt patches” where formerly living grass used to be. You need not run out and rake every day, but keep an eye on accumulating leaves and consider raking every three days or so. When raking, rake deeply rather than just skimming the surface to remove leave, which can help remove “thatch”—a dying layer between the soil and grass. As the season progresses, double-check that leaves aren’t clogging outdoor drains or gutters.

Water, but time watering carefully. Water trees and shrubs in early fall (if you’re not getting normal rainfall), and water both evergreen and deciduous plants in early fall. However, once leaves begin falling wait until the plants are bare before giving them a major pre-freeze watering. The reason for this is to prevent the plants from launching new growths that won’t be hardy enough to withstand the coming winter.

Winterize plants. How plants react to winter can vary by plant type and region. If you’re concerned about how your plants will react to winter, take a cutting to a local garden store and ask about its hardiness. Deciduous plants, those which produce flowers, often need some careful winter care in the form of a temporary “tent” or shelter, built with posts and with burlap or another plant covering laid atop them. Evergreen plants are hardier, and their vulnerability to winter’s approach varies by climate. To protect them, build a wire cage around them and surround it with burlap, which should be pinned together to prevent exposure to winds and freezing. But many gardeners, depending on climate, believe that proper watering can prepare an evergreen plant to weather the weather. Potted plants will need to come indoors.

Winterize outdoor pipes and take gardening gear indoors. It may sound obvious but many gardeners will need to drain garden hoses and bring them indoors for storage. Also important, especially in freezing climates: You’ll need to shut off the outdoor water supply and covering external water pipes to prevent water damage from freezing.