Fall Chores: 10 Simple Fall Cleanup Tips For The Season

fall chores

One interesting aspect about lawn care, gardening and landscaping is that no two years are ever the same.  Up until the middle of October, the Midwest had been extremely dry and much warmer than usual.  These conditions have delayed the normal fall chores, pushing back such jobs as leaf collection or final mowing to much later in November.

In past years, most leaves have fallen by now and lawns are beginning to harden-off for winter.  There are many, many trees that still have mostly green leaves and the fall leaf color change has just started in some areas.

Although it will soon change, most annual plants are still looking good and only slightly damaged by frost.  The temperatures are forecasted to drop into the lower 20’s for much of the Midwest.  Even the warm season areas are seeing lawns showing signs of frost damage with lawns turning a sort of psychedelic pattern of green and tan colors.  Of course, a short time later, the temperatures rebounded back into the 70’s and 80’s.

Fall Chores and Cleanup Checklist

While waiting for the leaves to drop, here are some other fall chores and projects that can be completed this season:

  1. Plant spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, etc.
  2. Fall is a great time to divide perennials, except for ones that flower in the fall.  It is best to divide those in the spring.
  3. In areas where the ground freezes, be sure to winterize sprinkler systems by blowing out the water in the lines and shutting down the system for the winter.
  4. In areas where the weather turns cold, turn off water to outside spigots.  At least remove any hoses that are still attached.
  5. Remove leaves and debris out of gutters.
  6. Cover patio furniture or place in a protected area like a shed or garage.
  7. To avoid outdoor pots from breaking during the winter, either cover them and place in a protected area, empty them or move them indoors.
  8. Set up some bird feeders for over-wintering birds like cardinals.
  9. Pull up summer annuals and either compost them or appropriately dispose of them.  Be careful not to compost plants that may have been infected by a disease.  It is better to dispose of those plants.
  10. Winterize lawn mowers and clean garden tools.  A light coating of oil on the tools will keep them from rusting over the winter.

Keep Up With Raking or Mulching Fall Leaves

Don’t let your leaves pile up this fall season. To save some time and effort, grind up leaves with a mower instead of raking them. According to Dr. Aaron Patton, Turfgrass Extension Specialist from Purdue University, tree leaves can be mulched, and the ground up leaves will help to feed the microorganisms in the soil and won’t cause any harm to your grass.

Get started on the fall chores checklist to get your yard ready for winter season. Contact your local Spring-Green if you need help, Spring will return in only 5 months.

Why Do Leaves Change Color In The Fall?

leaves changing color

What time of the year do you like the most? Is it the winter when everything is covered with a blanket of white? Is it the spring when many trees and shrubs show off their beautiful flowers? Is it summer when lawns are green and flowers are blooming everywhere? Or, is it fall when the air turns cooler and the leaves on the trees take on their fall colors in shades of yellow, red, orange and brown?

All seasons have their pluses and minuses, but fall is a very colorful time as the trees and shrubs change from different shades of green to various hues of yellow, red, orange and even brown. It is first important to understand why leaves fall off.  All deciduous plants, or plants that lose leaves in the fall have a layer of cells that comprise the abscission layer.

As these cells begin to breakdown at the end of the growing season, the leaf will eventually break off and fall away. How long the color lasts mainly depends on how long it takes for the abscission cells to breakdown and fall away. The longer the process takes, the longer the colors lasts.

How do leaves change color?

The process starts when sunlight time shortens and air temperatures cool down. Less daylight and cooler nights work together to produce more pigments in the leaves. Chemicals and nutrients start moving out of the leaf and into the stem of the leaf. Trees and shrubs use different processes to break down the sugars produced in the leaves into carbohydrates and other foods that lead to the change of leaf color.

Yellow color occurs during this breakdown period. As the production of chlorophyll in leaves stop, two pigments, carotin and xanthophyll, which produces the yellow color, become visible. The pigments are always there, but are masked by the green color of the chlorophyll.

Red colors depend on bright days and cool nights to become visible. Bright light increases sugar production within the leaf, but the cooler nights prevents the sugars from leaving the leaf.  When sugar content increases within the leaves, a red pigment, anthocyanin, is produced. Orange is the color that comes from mixing red and yellow together.

Weather plays a role in Fall Color

Depending on the amount of red or yellow pigments produced in the leaves determines the shade of orange the leaf becomes. If the nights get too cool or the days are overcast, you end up with an “off year” for tree color. And a killing frost ends the show completely by killing all the pigments in the leaves no matter what stage they’re in.

The intensity of the colors, especially scarlets, oranges and golds, the weather must be almost perfect along with plenty of soil moisture.  The sooner a hard frost occurs, more leaves are killed off before having the opportunity to change color. The color that the leaves turn in the fall depends on the plant’s genetic makeup.  If it is important to you to have plants with a nice fall color, inquire about the plants fall color before purchasing.

Trees are a great source of leaf mulch.  Instead of raking your leaves, grid them up with your mower and recycle the nutrients back on to your lawn.  Leaves do not significantly add to the thatch layer. When leaves start turning color is also a great time to root feed the trees and shrubs in your yard and landscape.  Contact your local Spring-Green to add this important service.  Your landscape will appreciate it.

Fall Maintenance: Winterizing Your Lawn and Landscape!

winterizing lawn and landscape equipment

You may still be using your lawn mower and other lawn equipment for a while, as fall gradually gives way to winter. Properly winterizing lawn equipment is well worth your time and effort. If you follow these six steps before putting it all away for the season, you will extend the life and maintain the efficiency of your lawn equipment, find yourself better prepared for the winter season, and perhaps have a fewer issues next spring, when the growing season resumes.

Winterizing Lawn and Landscape

1. Provide Complete Fall Maintenance for Your Lawn

In preparation for winter, your lawn’s root system continues to grow during the fall season. Just as growth above the ground requires proper nourishment, so does this important growth beneath the surface. Late fall fertilization will help your lawn improve root growth and build up its strength to endure the upcoming winter months. Nutrients will also be stored by the root system to provide for a quicker green-up the following spring. There may still be a few weeds that can be controlled at this time of year too. If you gradually lower your mowing height toward the very end of the season, you will reduce the chances for diseases, such as snow mold, to take hold and may also reduce the tan/brown portion of the grass blades.

2. Properly Winterizing Your Lawn Mower

Today’s blended fuels tend to separate over time, which can cause a variety of problems in small engines. Treat your gasoline with a fuel stabilizer when it’s time to refill the gas can. After you add treated gasoline to the tank on your mower, be sure to start and run your mower to circulate the treated gas throughout the engine. If possible, after you have cut grass for the last time, run the engine out of gas. This is particularly easy if your mower has an inline fuel valve between the tank and the engine. Whether you do it yourself or take the mower to a local shop, this is also a good time to change the oil and complete any other standard maintenance tasks that your mower requires, such as blade sharpening. Whichever way you get it done, be sure to comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

3. Prepare Your Smaller Lawn Equipment as Well

Gas powered trimmers and blowers have smaller engines than do lawn mowers, which makes them even more susceptible to problems related to separation, varnish build-up, and other “old fuel” issues. Any fuel left in their tanks should be treated and run through the engine. All lawn equipment should be cleaned and maintained per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

4. Give Your Lawn and Garden Hand Tools Some TLC

Shovels, trowels, garden hoses and such should be cleaned off before you store them for the winter. Use a wire brush to remove caked-on soil and rust and then wipe them down with some motor oil to keep them from rusting again. Unless the handle was varnished, it is also a good idea to smooth off any rough spots with sandpaper and wipe them with some linseed oil. This will help prevent the wood from drying out and splitting. If you value your garden hoses, disconnect and drain them before storing them indoors.

5. Is Your Snowblower Ready for Action?

Was your snowblower serviced before it was put away last spring? Check it out now rather than wait until the first substantial snowfall before attempting to start it. Besides the engine, inspect common wear parts, such as blades/auger, clutch, and belt. Are all the nuts and bolts still in place and properly torqued? The idea is to have your machine ready to go when you need it. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. You should also check the condition of your snow shovels. Now is the time to determine whether they need to be repaired or replaced.

6. Mark Edges and Boundaries

Snow has a way of masking where the grass begins along your driveway, sidewalks, and curb lines. Adding markers to the edge of your lawn allow you or your snow removal service to see where shoveling/blowing should begin and end in order to avoid harm. Adding reflective markers along the street line of your property may help road plow operators avoid your lawn.

As always, never hesitate to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green whenever you have questions or concerns about caring for your lawn and landscape. Whether before, during, or after each growing season, we are always on the job.

Pruning: How and When to Prune Flowering Plants

fall pruning

If you hesitate at the thought of bringing the pruning shears to your beautiful flowering plants, you’re not alone. The thought of pruning flowering plants can make even the most experienced home gardener pause. But pruning is important to your plants’ growth, and one of the best ways to bring more blooms the following season. But not all plants should be pruned the same way or at the same time of year. What gets pruned and when? We are so glad you asked!

When to Prune, Timing Is Everything

When and where to prune a flowering plant largely depends on when and where it blooms. Properly timing the pruning of your flowering plants can make the difference between magnificent blooms next season, or—every gardener’s fear—no flowers at all. The key is to determine when and where the plant sets its buds for the next season. In general terms, we want to prune after flowering is finished but before budding begins. You want to prune before buds are set to keep from disturbing the following year’s blooms.

As a rule, flowering plants that bloom in early spring on old wood (or growth from the previous season), like azaleas, should be pruned a week or two after flowering. The new growth that follows is where buds will form. Those buds will then bloom the following spring on what by then will be the previous season’s growth.

Plants that bloom in late summer or fall, on stem growth from the current growing season, should be pruned in winter or early spring, while the plant is dormant. During the growing season that follows, buds will form and bloom on the current year’s growth.
Some plant types will make this easy and others not so much. Azaleas, for example, form buds all along the stem, so you can cut anywhere and still encourage buds to bloom. Hydrangeas are another story. Some hydrangea bloom on the old wood while others bloom on the new growth. The key is to figure out which type(s) you have.

Pruning Tips and Techniques

The reasons to prune flowering plants are fairly few: to control the size and shape the plants, to optimize the blooms, and to remove dead or diseased portions. Deadheading, for example, is the practice of pruning flowers after they have faded out of bloom. In some cases, dead wood is pruned away for safety reasons. The removal of dead wood can be done at any time and diseased wood should be removed as soon as possible. Fall pruning is usually restricted to these instances. In any case, most flowering plants require relatively few pruning sessions.

The act of pruning plants is somewhat ironic in that when we prune, we are in effect causing injury. When done properly, however, pruning techniques utilize the plant’s natural healing process to stimulate new growth and achieve optimal health, beauty, and vitality. For the best results, make sure you fertilize as well as prune. Some plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons, love to be fertilized right at the end of the blooming season as well as during the summer. Finally, use proper tools and keep them sharp in order to minimize trauma to the plant.

The key is to know your particular type of plant and what it needs most. Pruning may not be easy, but the results are well worth the work. Two excellent sources of additional information come from Stihl’s Pruning Guide, a manufacturer of pruning tools, and Proven Winners Rules of Thumb for Pruning Flowering Shrubs.

As always, never hesitate to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green whenever you have questions or concerns about caring for your lawn and landscape. We are here to help.