Do not collect leaves on the curb or take them to your municipal compost center. Instead, handle it with your lawnmower. Tear off the leaves and leave them on the lawn while mowing this fall. As the leaves decompose, they add organic matter to the soil, and as long as you can see the grass through the cut of the leaves, the grass will be fine.
Use any extra fall leaves for garden work. Add shredded leaves to your compost pile or dig them into annual gardens as a soil amendment. Simply dig a 2- to 3-inch layer of shredded leaves into the top 12 inches of annual or new planting beds. The leaves will decompose over the winter adding organic matter to the soil. By spring, your garden bed will be ready to finish preparing and planting.
Spread some fall leaves over the soil around perennial plants as mulch. They help insulate roots, conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and improve the soil. Fall mulching gives you a jump start on your landscaping work next spring. It also provides winter homes for some beneficial insects and insulation for queen bumblebees, frogs, and others that spend the winter in the soil.
Leave healthy perennials to stand over the winter. They will add movement and texture to your landscape. Seed heads add beauty and many provide food for birds. The hollow stems of a variety of perennials provide winter homes for many native bees and other beneficial insects. This also increases winter survival as research has found that perennials left standing are better able to withstand the rigors of winter.
Be sure to cut and dispose of any diseased or insect-infested plants. Removing these items reduces the source of disease and insect pest problems in next year’s garden. Use a bypass pruner to cut plants back to just above the soil surface. The XSeries Pro Bypass Pruner from Corona (www.coronatoolsusa.com) is lightweight and professional grade with its blade ensuring a smooth, clean cut on green and dry stems and branches.
Continue watering throughout the fall and only during the day when soil and air temperatures are at 40 degrees F or higher. Trees, shrubs and perennials that suffer drought stress in fall and early winter are more susceptible to root damage and thus insect pest and disease problems. Make sure new plantings, moisture lovers, evergreens and perennials in exposed locations are well watered when the top four to six inches are crumbly and slightly damp.
Add some new plants to the landscape this fall. The soil is warm and the air is cool, providing excellent conditions for planting and establishing trees, shrubs and perennials. Include some fall favorites like pansies, asters and mums in containers and garden beds for instant color and food for late-season pollinators. Many garden centers are adding new, healthy plants to their inventory specifically for planting this fall.
No matter where you live or the size of your garden, you can get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of fall. And be sure to invest a little time and energy now to make sure your landscape is ready for next season.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including this recently released one Midwest Gardener’s Guide, 2Second abbreviation Editing Small space gardening. “It hosts major tournaments.”“How to Grow Anything” Instant Video Series And the national trade union Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio programme. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Corona Tools for her expertise in writing this article. Myers website is www.melindamyers.com.