Just because winter is on its way, now is not the time to slack on taking care of your yard. In fact, lawn care professionals say fall is the ideal time to get your landscaping into gear so it will look great in the spring.
"It's a common misconception that just because most plants and gardens aren't actively blooming in the fall, they don't require maintenance during the colder months," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). "Many homeowners work hard all spring and summer to care for their yards and gardens, only to let them languish once colder weather arrives."
In cold climates, taking extra care of trees, grass, shrubs and plants will ensure they surviv the winter and look great in the spring.
"I'm already thinking about next year," says John Dillon, who maintaints the 200 acres of lawn that makes up New York City's Central Park. "The grass I grow this fall is what will be there next spring."
Follow these five tips to prep your yard for winter:
1. Start Planting: The warm soil in the fall is perfect for planting flowering bulbs and perennials, and allows plants and roots to have several months to establish themselves before the stress of the summer heat.
2. Get Rid of Leaves: Winter's frigid temperatures can cause leaves, dead grass, and plants to release chemicals that run off frozen ground during springs snow melt and spring rains. These chemicals can end up in surface water, so removing leaves is important. Getting rid of leaves also improves the state of your grass.
3. Mulch Madness: Applying two to three inches of mulch can help to protect plant roots and grass from extreme temperatures in the winter months. You can even make your own mulch by running over leaves a couple of times with your lawnmower.
4. Wrap Your Plants: Burlap for frost protecting fabrics will protect many plant varieties like roses, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and crape myrtles from being damaged by sub-freezing temperatures.
5. Apply Fertilizer: Make sure to fertilize your law before the first frost so your grass will survive the winter conditions. Choose a fertilizer with a formula designed to meet your lawn's needs. The numbers on a fertilizer bag show the percentge of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium on a weight basis. If you aren't sure what kind of fertilizer your lawn needs, talk to a lawn care or landscape professional. It's also good to know that some states are actually banning types of fertilizer and times of the year when fertilizer can be applied to reduce runoff. Check with your local extension service to see the regulations for your area.