For those in colder climates, fall signals a slowdown of gardening activities and a transition to cold weather. The golden, fluttering-leave days of Indian summer, however, are the perfect times to prepare your lawn and gardens for their winter rest—and to get a jump start on springtime.
If you have any sparse or dead areas in your yard, fall is a good time to seed your lawn. The seed will lie dormant in the winter and then begin sprouting in the spring. Make sure as you are planting the seed that it gets down into the soil; otherwise the seed will just blow away.
Dormant seeding isn’t foolproof. Several factors can affect whether it is successful. Having a snowpack on top of it helps the seed to stay in place through fierce winter storms. If you have a warm winter and scant snowfall, you will probably need to reseed the lawn in the spring. Consult with your lawn mowing service for additional advice for your particular area.
Field mice, also known as voles, can wreak havoc on your lawn during the winter. Your best defense is to keep your lawn mowed right up until a killing freeze. You want to avoid going into winter with long grass, which will then be covered with snow—making an insulated spot for the pesky critters. For the same reason, remove leaves from your lawn and from under shrubbery, again an ideal shelter for the voles.
Many people like to apply a slow-release fertilizer on their lawn in the fall. When late winter and early spring arrive, the nutrients will be available for the grass and trees. You can apply calcium, too, which is part of a good feeding program for your yard. Spread the nutrients evenly over your yard and work them in with a rake or hoe and then water.
To ready your vegetable and flower gardens for the winter months, do a final weeding to rid the garden of any persistent stragglers. If left to winter over, some weeds will come back stronger than ever as soon as the snow disappears. By the time you are able to get to the soil to work on it, the weeds are already well established. Plow under any disease-free, weed-free organic matter. You don’t want to create places for bugs to winter over. You can also enrich your soil by planting a winter wheat crop or mulching leaves or pine needles and adding them to the soil. Plant any bulbs and early spring crops such as garlic before the ground freezes. If you are not able to do this work yourself, hire local landscaping services to come in and help you.
As the snow blows through your yard this winter, rest assured that at the first hint of warm weather, you’ll be ready for a fruitful spring planting season.