As temperatures drop, days continue to shorten and leaves fall, there are still several landscape tasks to complete before winter really arrives. I’ve covered the importance of mulch to moderate temperature and moisture reaching plants, fall fertilization, planting bulbs, mowing until the grass goes dormant, anti desiccant protection for your evergreens, and easy leaf management. What more can there be?
Weed Control. It seems like weed control never stops. It’s one of your first tasks in the spring and last tasks in the fall. Weeding needs to continue until they go dormant. As weeds prepare for winter dormancy, they’re dropping seeds. If you don’t remove the plants before they drop their seeds, those seeds will lie dormant until spring and be among the first plants to germinate, greeting you with a bumper crop. Weeds begin appearing before most of your desired plants in a bid to take over your landscape.
Debris Clean Up. Even if you’ve kept your yard clear of debris all summer, there could be an accumulation during the fall. The wind begins picking up as the weather declines, and it often brings debris with it. Debris from the street and neighborhood may end up in your yard. If you don’t pick it up and dispose of it now, it’ll still be there when the snow melts in spring.
Winterizing Your Deck Or Patio. You’ve taken your houseplants back inside, but have you winterized your deck or patio yet? You probably have covers for furniture or a shed or garage to move it into. However, that leaves any containerized plants that winter outside. The hardier plants can be moved to a sheltered area of your property where they can get the sunlight and moisture, they need but not the wind. Containerized soil is more exposed to cold temperatures than the soil in your grade-level planting beds. To protect the plant roots, wrap the pots with bubble wrap or some other insulating material to protect the plant roots. For less hardy containerized plants, I recommend they spend the winter in a cold frame. Be sure to open the cold frame on sunny days and water the plants when the temperature is above freezing.
Critter Proofing Trees & Shrubs. Don’t forget the woody plants. Hungry wildlife certainly won’t. Although there are plants certain animals don’t like, they’re just like us humans. When they’re hungry, they’ll eat anything. Protecting plants against deer foraging seems to vary by neighborhood. My best advice is to find out what works for your neighbors and give it a try. Don’t get so focused on deer that you forget about smaller animals like mice and rabbits. They can do more damage than deer. Deer like to chew on the tender ends of the lower tree branches. They can reach branches 8-12 feet up. If your trees are tall enough, you can solve the problem by removing any branches lower than 12 feet. Rodents, on the other hand, chew the bark around the base of the tree in an effort to get to the tender cambium layer. If they chew all the way around the tree, girdling the trunk, they can kill the tree. The best way to deter rodents is to make sure you don’t have any mulch volcanoes, keep snow from piling up against the trunks and wrapping the trunks with hardware cloth.
When you finish all these jobs, you’ll have completed fall cleanup and winter preparation and be ready for the snow to fly.