Fall Yard Maintenance Checklist
For the most part, fall in the garden involves clearing out dead plant materials and preparing the soil for the winter months to come. Creating a tidy yard that’s free of excess debris will make for a good spring planting environment. Additionally, regular sweeping and raking will help protect your deck and fence materials. Portland and other cities in the Pacific Northwest enjoy such mild climates that many plants stay green throughout the year, so fall may also include fresh plantings. Finally, fall is the season we most closely associate with the harvest, so it is the right season for gathering and preserving the bounty your yard has produced.
Below, we’ve provided a detailed checklist of fall yard maintenance tasks.
Remove leaves and other plant debris. To those lacking green thumbs, raking may seem like an OCD approach to yard care. However, raking leaves off turf increases air circulation and improves lawn growth. Moreover, cedar fence materials are liable to grow mildew and mold if leaves are left on them to rot. Similarly, leaves and other compost fodder should be cleared off of decking materials. Portland homeowners must be especially vigilant about clearing off decks and fences when there’s a break in the weather. Otherwise, fungus and mold could grow on your decking or fencing.
While removing plant debris, aim to create a gap between your fence and nearby plants. If a certain shrub is left to rub against your cedar fence materials all winter long, water will begin to pool in that spot, degrading the wood and attracting pests.
Harvest gourds, sprouts, cabbages and root vegetables. Harvest mature vegetables before the first hard freeze leaves a glittering sheen on your decking materials. Portland tends to see its first frost in mid-October; you probably have a few weeks following that time to bring in your last gourds. Some plants, such as kale, can winter over in Portland. If a certain cold-season vegetable seems especially healthy, give it a chance to continue producing throughout the cold months.
Plant bulbs. Invest in the aesthetics of your fence materials, Portland residents: Line them with cheerful tulips, daffodils and flowers. Fall is the right time for putting in bulbs. If you intend to winter force blossoms, plant the bulbs in pots now. Bulbs are also a wonderful complement for decking materials. Portland has many nurseries overflowing with eye-popping bulbs during the fall. Choose specimens that will lift your spirits as the winter rains taper off.
Mulch. Once your beds are clear, protect them by laying down a blanket of mulch. You can use your own compost materials, such as dried leaves and grasses, to create your own mulch, or you can buy mulch from a gardening store. Mulch discourages weed growth and makes those weeds that do pop up much easier to pull. It also provides an extra layer of nutrient-rich insulation for the soil, so it is better prepared for spring growth.
Prune trees and shrubs. Fall is the best time for pruning roses. It’s also smart to prune your trees and other bushes at this time. Be sure to prune any tree branches that are hanging over your cedar fence materials. If these branches were to be blown down during a storm, they could cause real damage. You should also deadhead flowering shrubs like fuchsias and rhododendrons.
Maintain yard tools. Lawn mowers may require winterization, as will most engine-driven machines. Even if you don’t use any motorized tools, fall is a good time for sharpening clippers and other pruning tools.
Plant winter crops. Certain vegetables can be grown year-round in the Pacific Northwest. For instance, if you’re hoping to add a little wintertime visual interest to your decking materials, Portland’s climate will support elevated pots with kale, spinach and garlic plants. Spinach, lettuce, carrots, collards, leeks and radishes can also be grown during the fall and winter months.
Plan next spring’s garden. Many of the most successful vegetable gardeners plant spring seeds indoors during the winter so as to have sizable seedlings once spring rolls around.
By carrying out these tasks, you’ll be more likely to enjoy a healthy, attractive garden throughout the winter months.
[ photo by: ewige ]