Fall is officially here, even though the temperatures are still rising into the high 80’s. Colder temperatures are just around the corner and we need to be doing some winter preparation before that first frost arrives. I do my yard preparation in three major steps: cleaning up the yard; preparing the yard for winter; and planting for the spring bloom. I know it sounds like a lot of work and I will be out doing the preparation, too!
Clean up that yard:
I love to fill my yard with flowers in the spring and summer, so one of the first things I will need to do is pull out the annuals and put them with my compost. These plants are only intended to grow for one season and won’t survive the winter. Composting could be a subject all on its own – so for now I just suggest you allow nature to do what it does best in breaking down the plant matter to be able to help future things grow. Composting is one awesome way to dispose of yard waste and be environmentally friendly too. Clean out your pots and store them for the winter. With cold Iowa temperatures, the containers will weather better stacked and stored. Cleaning your pots helps prevent molds and bacteria transfer from one season to the next. Sometimes it is good to clean with a mild disinfectant solution.
Cut back your perennials. Trim gangly stems. Any non-woody stems can be pruned back to within an inch or two of the ground. In most cases, only woody stems and branches will survive the cold Iowa winters. You can also do this in the spring (I just like to have a start on the preparation for next years’ tasks). Pick up excess yard waste or branches and dispose of them properly by composting or adding to the city yard waste collection bags.
Keep up with your weeding until the frost arrives for good and it will help lessen the amount of weed pulling that you will do in the spring. Some weeds are hardy perennials and it is best to not give invasive plants a chance to establish a deep root system.
Preparation for the chill
I protect my plants with a light layer of mulch. (I rake and mulch my leaves and then use that as a layer of protection). This layer of protection helps prevent soil temperatures from becoming too extreme. Even if frost penetrates the ground it won’t kill the plant roots if it isn’t too extreme. Some of the more fragile plants have to weather the winter in my basement. I dig them up and transfer them to a pot that I can bring indoors. I just have to find a sunny location and put a tray down layered with small pebbles and water so that they still get a little moisture and a little light.
Remove the garden hose from the outdoor faucets and allow them to drain out and them store them for the winter. If a hose is left outside with water in it, the water will freeze and crack or break the hose.
Rake your leaves as needed. It hurts the lawn to leave the leaves down on the grass and with the arrival of snow can damage the lawn if left all winter long.
Winterize your outdoor equipment. Taking the time to clean up and winterize will help your equipment to last longer and be prepared for next spring. Winterize by draining the gasoline tank, cleaning debris off, sharpening blades, removing rust, etc. I store the equipment, so that critters or cold temperatures won’t do damage.
Plant for the Spring:
As I said earlier, I like flowers and color. I take time to plant spring bulbs sometime in late September early October. They will look the best if you plant them in bunches of 8-10 bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and even irises work great for a pop of spring color. I like to make sure I use good planting soil and a little bit of mulch in with the bulbs and then put a layer on top for protection.
This Fall To-Do list that will take a little of time on the weekend, but reaping the rewards next spring when there is less to do and there is properly working equipment will be a blessing. Just grab the sweatshirt and the yard gloves and get busy!