Getting Your Yard Ready for Fall

fall yard prep

Shelly Towns

Just because the weather is turning cooler doesn’t mean your work outside is done!  Here are a few things you need to do to get your yard ready for fall, and ensure a great lawn and garden next year, too.

Fall is nearly here.  You can smell it, feel the crispness of the air in the early mornings, see the beginnings of leaves changing color and the end of the rapid, lush growth of spring and summer.  For many people, this is a favorite time of year, when the weather starts to get cooler but hasn’t yet gotten cold and wet.

Just because the most rapid part of the growing season is over doesn’t mean your work outside is done, however!  There is a lot left to do if you want to properly prepare your yard for fall and, eventually, winter.  Here are a few things that still need to be done.

  • Check all landscape lights and other outdoor lighting. All of your outdoor lighting should be checked both spring and fall to make sure it’s in good working order and won’t be susceptible to moisture damage, especially in the wet winter months.  Replace bulbs as needed, and be sure that your wiring is in good shape and well protected from the elements.
  • Fertilize, aerate, and seed your lawn. Many people assume that just because the days are cooler and the flowers are no longer blooming, the time to do yard maintenance is over.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Fertilizing and aerating your lawn in the fall helps it to recover after the scorching heat of summer.  Seeding in the fall also helps to fill in bare patches, because the grass can grow undisturbed by weeds.
  • Mow to 2 or 2 1/2 inches, as needed. You will also need to continue mowing your lawn throughout the fall, until the grass totally stops growing.  Between 2 and 2 1/2 inches is a good length.  Long grass plus snow for a roof makes a perfect home for mice, so keeping your lawn short will help prevent animals from tearing it up during the winter!
  • Winterize your garden. Now is the time to start getting your soil ready for next year’s garden.  Fall is a good time to rototill the soil and spread mulch to protect your garden during the cold months.  You can also spread compost to help rejuvenate the soil.
  • Winterize trees and shrubs. You actually want to stop watering trees and larger shrubs in the fall, as the tapering off of their water supply will help them to lose their leaves and prepare for winter.  Once all the leaves have fallen, deep watering (where you water the base for a long time with a steady trickle or slow flow that will sink deep into the roots) will ensure your trees and bushes have plenty of water throughout the winter months.
  • Rake up fallen leaves and sweep porches and patios regularly. Don’t wait for the leaves to finish falling before you rake them up!  Getting the leaves off the lawn quickly helps your grass to grow its best.  Sweeping porches, patios, and walks clear of leaves regularly will help maintain your outdoor space as a comfortable place to spend your spare time, all season long.

I know after a long hot summer, it is probably pretty tempting to put away the lawn tools and just forget about doing any more work outside.  But what you do now will not only allow you to continue enjoying your outdoor space throughout the fall, it will also help you prepare for next year, and ensure a better yard and garden in the spring.

Shelly Towns is a mother of two and a freelance writer for an outdoor garden lighting company.  She also loves to redesign and decorate homes in her free time.

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  1. Jennie@IW says

    Great advice! Living in temperate Northern California, in addition to following the advice above, I’m going to try to plant some winter vegetables – spinach, peas, broccoli, maybe some carrots and onions. I have to say, as much as I love spring and fall, there is something satisfying about putting the garden to “rest” for a couple of months. I’m going to try to mulch a lot to keep weeds from popping up!

  2. Pam@IW says

    Thanks for all of the tips!

    I don’t really have to do much of this. I too live in California but in the southern section and we just do the same thing to our yard year round. The trees that do drop leaves do so at different times of the year. The one in our back yard doesn’t drop leaves at all but I think because of the intense heat, it has started to.  The ones in our front yard that lose all of their leaves usually start doing so in December and will be done sometime by the end of January.

    Most of the flowers in my pots will bloom year round unless it gets into the high 30s or 40s at night and then they will die.  We do fertilize and plant winter grass in October/November.

  3. Anya@IW says

    Shelly, thank you for the article.

    I have found that putting a little bit of time in the fall and winter makes getting the garden in shape much easier in spring! Even though we mulch, weeds still crop up and I try and spend at least a little bit of time each weekend keeping those under control in the fall and winter (no snow here). I will try your tip to get the soil in better condition too.

    Thank you for mentioning sweeping up leaves! I think we are the only ones who do that on our block! Yes, they look “pretty” when they first fall, but after a couple of weeks sitting on the ground, they aren’t so appealing any more. Add rain and you have a big soggy mess that the carelessly dropped potato chip bag gets dragged into. No longer such a pretty site. Yes – I like the outdoors as tidy as the indoors!

  4. says

    We don’t rake up our leaves.  We mulch them by mowing over them several times as they fall.  We definitely have to aerate and reseed the lawn.  The scorching heat in July did a number on sections of the yard.  :(

    I do love fall yard work.  I love to put the perennial beds to rest by dead heading somewhat and covering with leaf mulch.  I leave some seed heads for the birds for winter and spring.  We’ll get some branches and twigs from last winter and spring pruning burned now that they are now good and dry.  The bonfire is fun.  We’ll roast weiners and marshmallows, too.

  5. CraftyMomof3 says

    My mom just planted all her fall flowers. They llok so pretty.
    We are going to the local corn maze Columbus Day weekend to do the maze and then we get to do a bonfire for four hours. Should be fun!!!!

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