Ah, fall. The most colorful and beloved season of them all in this humble bloggers opinion. Why? The leaves change colors and the air becomes crisp and cool. However, lurking within the timelessness of fall is the dreaded fall clean up schedule on your lawn and landscape. Yup, every fall it’s time to rake leaves, drain the irrigation, over-seed the grass, preserve the lawn equipment and break down the patio furniture, fire tables or other metal structures. They say all good things must come to an end. Here are some helpful hints to avoid the 5 most preventable tragedies, making outdoor chores as easy and breezy as the fall air. If you take this advice you’ll have no worries for the upcoming fall and winter months!
TIP 1. DEALING WITH THE TREES
They soak up carbon dioxide, produce life giving oxygen, help retain soil, and provide shade and relief from those hot summer days. They are also the cause of leaves on your lawn. Any non-coniferous tree, also known as deciduous, is going to give you leaves. Depending on the age of the tree, you could get a lot of them. This isn’t a large deal if you hire a landscape company to extract the leaves from your yard. The problem is, this can be costly and the power equipment could damage the lawn if the ground is saturated from fall rain. The pros to landscape companies are fast and accurate clean ups. The cons are scheduling and cost. If you are a DIY’er then these tips will help you immensely.
As soon as the leaves start falling get out there and rake daily. Not only will this keep the leaves from accumulating but it will give you a good work out too. Be sure to use biodegradable bags or permanent waste containers according to your town’s yard waste agreements.
Avoid Clumping When Planting Deciduous Trees
When planting deciduous trees spread out to avoid clumping of leaves in areas making the leaves heavier and more difficult to clean up. Often large piles of leaves will collect moisture and damage lawns.
Avoid Watering Leaves With Irrigation
This will lead to an overly saturated condition and make the leaves heavier to rake up. Not to mention they’ll weaken your bags and get slime all over everything.
Meet Your Landscaper (If you are hiring one)
If you are using a landscaping company be sure to meet with the sales rep to discuss when the optimal cleanup would be to avoid over paying but having them perform the same job many times over.
Remove Your Annuals
If you have mulch beds with perennials then these will be maintenance free but annuals should be removed to prevent decaying matter on your beds.
TIP 2. PREPPING YOUR IRRIGATION SYSTEM
Irrigation systems are a great way to keep your lawn watered and reduce time used to water the lawn yourself. Irrigation systems are generally maintenance free minus replacing broken sprinklers and other parts. The biggest maintenance item on irrigation is draining the lines of moisture and standing water. Again, utilizing a landscape company will provide fast and timely results but with a little engineering and an air nozzle, you’re in business. After over seeding is finished and the temperature is falling to forty five degrees at night is a good time to purge the irrigation. Using the outside spigot on your back flow valve open and close the valves needed to purge your irrigation lines. Here’s a list of parts needed for a DIY irrigation purging attachment:
On/off valve. GHT(Garden Hose Thread) adapter. Air compressor step down plumbing connections. (See Pic)
TIP 3. OVER-SEEDING THE LAWN
Over-seeding grass is a fall practice many don’t realize is essential to fill in bare spots from kids, pets and other foot traffic. Over-seeding is a great deterrent against weeds. The overcrowding of the grass will snuff out weed roots and naturally prevent further weed occurrence. This practice will also help thicken your lawn, making it feel plush and supportive on bare feet. In a weekend day you can do this yourself with the same results. Along with doing the work yourself a feeling of pride and accomplishment will follow.
You’ll appreciate your work and respect it for years to come. Over-seeding can be done in a few easy steps:
1. Mow the lawn to the lowest setting on your lawn mower and bag the clippings.
2. Thatch the ground with a thatch rake or lawn mower attachment to expose the ground below the mowed grass.
3. (This next step can be considered optional if you don’t buy bags of grass seed designed for this procedure). Spread approximately one half inch of compost over the lawn and rake in grass seed after using a grass seed spreader to apply seed over lawn. The compost will both help the new seedlings and supply the old grass with new nutrients.
4. Be sure to water daily until the grass has grown to a height suitable for mowing and be sure to reduce activity in the seeded areas. If this is the whole yard then enjoy the opposite yard for a while.
5. Mow the lawn as you normally would once the seedlings are grown and fill in those patches nicely.
TIP 4. PREP YOUR LAWN EQUIPMENT
Lawn equipment is an investment. It is for the preservation of your landscape you worked so hard for. This covers everything from shovels to riding lawn mowers. Always check the manufacturer’s maintenance manuals if applicable for scheduled maintenance and winterizing procedures. For most hand tools, clean with fresh water, dry and lightly cover all steel parts with a light weight oil film. Usually any spray penetration oil will work. This will keep moisture from rusting steel parts. Any sliding parts that are metal will benefit from this practice.
For most gas powered equipment, a few generic practices will go a long way. Fill tires to correct pressure with air and check monthly for correct pressures. Fill gas tank completely and pour in a fuel stabilizer. Drain carburetors of gas and run a cleaner through the fuel input. Carburetors have very tiny, calibrated orifices that easily clog with congealing gasoline so be sure to clean them well. For the mechanically inclined such as myself I often remove them from the equipment, disassemble, and store them in a cool, dry area. Service all grease points with fresh grease and wipe off excess. Make sure any outside stored equipment is covered and parked on a dry, non-organic surface. Parking equipment on grass will lead to rust very quickly! Keep your power equipment well maintained and they will last you a life time.
TIP 5. PACKING UP THE PATIO FURNITURE
Sadly, the final thing for packing is your patio furniture. I always saw it as a symbol of defeat. It’s too cold to enjoy the patio. Fear not! With a few easy to remember tips you can enjoy your patio for years to come.
1. Wash patio furniture with mild soap and water. Clean out those nooks and crannies of dirt and bugs. Allow to air dry and lightly apply an oily film to any steel parts. Aluminum is far less susceptible to corrosion and doesn’t need any preserving oil so long as it remains dry and free from standing water during storage.
2. Most liners for cushions are water resistant but doesn’t mean they won’t stain! Follow instructions on fabric for proper washing techniques, wash, fold and store in a cool dry area in a living quarter of your home.
3. Most cushions are machine washable but for those that aren’t a light surface cleaning should be all you need to keep them lasting. As always if there are care instructions follow them for proper maintenance.
4. The sun shade umbrella is generally large and cumbersome. Clean out underside of umbrella and disassemble from the top down if applicable. By disassembling from the top down you’ll eliminate leverage from the umbrella and the length you’ll need to remove from the table and ground.
Summer is gone and fall is about to start. With winter right around the corner, you’ll be enjoying the winter fun such as skiing, snowman making, snow angels, hot cocoa and so forth. Why? Because you’re prepared to tackle spring and summer next year. No need to worry about that to do list in the spring when you’re already poised to make the most of the winter and a breeze of the spring chores. Prevention is the best maintenance money can buy and since you spent very little to keep your spring and summer equipment ready during the winter months I’d say that’s a great deal!