Fall is in full swing here in the Southern Tier of New York, and it won’t be long until the flakes start to fall. There are a few autumn chores the average homeowner can do on their own to increase the health of their lawn. You can set yourself up for a successful spring by following these tips:
Over the course of the year, soil is compressed and hardened, making it difficult for grass roots to get the nutrients they require. Rainfall pooling in grassy areas is a good sign that aeration is needed. A small yard can be successfully aerated with a garden fork and a strong back, but for larger yards consider renting a commercial walk-behind aerator or hiring a professional lawn care provider.
Feed Your Grass
Unlike perennials and other plantings, grass roots will continue to grow until the ground temperature drops below 40 degrees. Feeding your grass at this time of year encourages late season growth that will strengthen your turf, providing a greener, healthier lawn earlier in the spring. Stop in and talk to our friends at Banfield-Baker in Horseheads, NY and they’ll likely recommend that you apply a high-phosphorus (12-25-12) mix to your lawn.
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Your last mow of the season should be done as late as possible and as short as 1 ½ inches. Keeping your yard trimmed close during the dormant months will discourage the spread of disease while also encouraging leaves to blow off your yard without being caught by the longer blades of grass. Be careful not to cut your grass too short however, as the upper blade is responsible for producing most of the plant’s food.
With a little bit of extra work you can turn your unwanted leaf piles into nutrient-rich compost that will feed your lawn and flower beds in the spring. A simple compost bin takes up very little yard space and can be constructed out of a few posts and chicken wire. Use a garden fork to turn the leaves over occasionally, and the resulting ‘black gold’ will benefit your plants for years to come.
Plant New Shrubs
It’s not too late to add a few more pieces to your landscape. Planting shrubs in the early fall gives them an opportunity to establish a healthy root system in the cool, moist soil. It’s important to give your root ball room to grow, so don’t skimp on the shovel work! As a general rule, you should dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball and two inches deeper. Ensure the base of the plant is right at ground level and lightly pack soil around it. Be sure to water the new plantings right away and daily for the first couple of weeks while the roots are getting established. We recommend Davis Garden Center in Big Flats, NY (607-562-3787) for all of your ornamental trees and shrubs. Don is very knowledgeable in the plant world and will help you find just the right variety for your landscape.
Cut Back Perennials
Once their beauty fades away, your perennials require a little extra care to make sure they are at their best when it comes time for the spring bloom. Trimming the spent foliage down to the ground helps to return nutrients back to the root system to prepare for the next season. Now is also the best time to thin out and divide any tuberous plants, like irises and daylilies. This should be done every three years typically to promote growth: more open space means more flowers in bloom. Remove any annuals who have overstayed their welcome. Snails and slugs feed on these dying plants, so removing their food source will discourage them from sticking around for the fall breeding season.
Trim Dead Limbs
Fall is the best time to cut back dead branches to ensure your trees emerge from the winter looking beautiful and healthy. Be sure to remove any cracked or diseased limbs about one inch from the trunk or main beam and leave them exposed to heal. Don’t get in over your head though, for larger jobs always hire a professional tree service. We highly recommend Aspen Brooke Tree Service in Painted Post, NY for any dangerous limbs, unwanted trees, or stump grinding. Give them a call today at (607) 481-4310.
Mulch Young Plants
Applying 2 to 4 inches of fresh mulch over new plantings keeps young plants warm while also mitigating water runoff and soil erosion. Wait until after a light frost but before the ground freezes, then till decomposed layers of organic mulch into the soil and apply your fresh mulch.
If you are in the Elmira, Corning, or surrounding areas, and are looking for assistance with any of these services, give us a call at 607-438-2810.