Fall landscape maintenance keeps plants and pollinators healthy

As the weather and gardens shift from summer to fall, it’s time to adjust your maintenance practices to ensure the health, longevity, and beauty of your landscape. Proper fall care will increase winter survival, support pollinators, and reduce your future workload.

Continue to water as needed. This is especially important for new plantings and moisture loving plants. Do not neglect established trees during prolonged dry spells. Drought conditions stress these key landscape plants, making them more vulnerable to insects and life-threatening diseases.

Let healthy perennials sit for the winter. Many are home to pollinators and other beneficial insects, and some seeds provide food for songbirds. You’ll enjoy the added texture and movement in your conservatory and the songbirds stopping for dinner.

Remove diseased plant debris and those infested with plant pests. Removing them from the garden reduces the source of future infestations, which means healthier plants with less pest control required. Contact your local municipality for advice on removing pest infested plant debris.

This is also a good time to remove small to medium sized dead or diseased branches from shrubs and small trees. A saw, like the Corona RazorTooth 7-inch Folding Saw, is perfect for this heavy-duty job. The blade slides into the handle for safe transport and the small size makes it easy to store in your tool belt or bucket. Disinfect the blade with rubbing alcohol or disinfectant spray between cuts when pruning diseased plant material.

Don’t rake the leaves on the sidewalk this fall. Use them in the garden as a mulch on the surface of the soil to help control weeds, conserve moisture, and improve the soil as they decompose. The leaves also provide insulation and winter protection for a variety of beneficial insects and toads.

Continue to weed the garden. Cooler temperatures and a shorter to-do list allow more time to be spent on this task. Removing unwanted plants from the garden reduces competition with desirable plants for water and nutrients. Eliminating weeds before they produce seeds means fewer weeds to pull the next year.

Keep mowing the lawn as long as it continues to grow. Leave the clippings on the lawn to add nutrients, moisture, and organic matter to the soil. The value of a mowing season is equivalent to one application of fertilizer.

Do not rake dead leaves from the lawn. Just mow them while you mow the grass and accomplish two tasks in one. As long as the leaf pieces are a quarter or smaller in size, they will decompose, adding organic matter to the soil and not damaging the grass. Make a second pass with the mower if necessary to reduce leaf size.

After your last cut, clean and winterize your mower. Remove and sharpen the blades to be ready for next season. Consider investing in an extra set of blades so you can change them throughout the mowing season. Sharp blades allow for a cleaner cut for a nicer lawn that requires less water and a mower that uses less fuel.

Setting aside some time this fall to prepare your garden for winter will reduce the replacement and pruning of winter damaged plants.

Melinda Myers is the author of numerous books, including Small Space Gardening. Myers’ website is www.MelindaMyers.com.

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