The trees in the Lakes Region are awash with color in autumn, as the days become shorter and the nights become cooler. This season brings many things that should be done on your property, and we’ve found there’s no shortage of opinions or misinformation on these topics.
So today we’re going to address a few of these topics, and hopefully, add some clarity to maintaining your property this season.
Can I Leave the Leaves?
We get it. Nobody enjoys raking leaves. Some say it’s not needed, whereas others advise to mulch them, and still others demand all leaves that need to be removed. Who is right? Well, a little bit of everyone.
One of the worst things you can do for your lawn allows it to be smothered by a carpet of leaves through the winter. Lawns need to breathe, and leaves can prevent that. Leaves can also encourage disease and fungus growth, so don’t just leave you leaves.
Removing them eliminates the concern of smothering your lawn, but you may be missing an opportunity. Leaves contain valuable nitrogen which is important to the growth of your lawn. Mulching correctly can both reduce the need for removing as many leaves, and introduce these nutrients into the soil.
To mulch correctly you must:
- Use a mower with a mulching blade.
- Only mulch dry leaves.
- Mulch 3-4 times over the season. Don’t wait for all of the leaves to fall.
- Make several passes over the leaves. You want to make enough passes so that the leaves are broken down to under ½ inch, ideally ¼ inch pieces. This also helps encourage leaves to be forced downward into the soil layers.
Evergreen Shrubs are Winter-Proof. Right?
Even though your shrubs stay green, or are hearty, doesn’t mean they are impervious to what winter can cause. Evergreens are susceptible to winter damage and die off just like deciduous varieties of shrubs.
Autumn often turns to winter quicker than we expect it, and winter can be a challenging time for the viability of your shrubs. Severe cold, freeze and thaw cycles, wind, and even physical damage from show and ice occur frequently. Often a little proactive effort in late autumn is enough to curb these risks, and we encourage property owners to consider how to best protect their shrubs.
Build wooden coverings for any shrubs beneath your soffit, under trees, or anywhere falling ice and snow may crash onto them. The wooden coverings can be simple A-frames, lean-tos, or anything that will shed the impact of these hazards away from your shrubs. Damage from falling ice in particular is a common cause of winter die-off.
Consider wrapping your shrubs in burlap. Burlap will protect your plant from severe winds (a particular concern for lakefront or high-view properties). Burlap also breathes, allowing for more subtle temperature fluctuations and drier conditions throughout the winter.
Mulching can help protect roots from damaging freeze and thaw cycles. The insulative properties of 2-3 inches of mulch along the ground can make a big difference. Just remember not to pile mulch along the stem or trunk areas. Your shrubs still need to breathe, and this will reduce airflow to this important area.
The Lakes Region is known for its natural beauty, and that includes wonderful wildlife. While much of our wildlife is preparing to hibernate or migrate during autumn, others may be eyeing your plants like a buffet. We’re of course referring to deer.
We’ve heard story after story of deer doing damage over the winter to valued plants. We’ve also heard almost as many so-called foolproof ways to prevent this from happening. Here’s what we know works.
Keep them out. Install fencing around your property or around your plants. If deer cannot get close to your plants, they cannot eat them.
Fencing can be permanent or temporary, but it needs to be durable enough to not be pushed over by the deer, snowdrifts, or strong winds. It also needs to be tall enough that the deer cannot simply jump over it. This means 8 feet tall in some instances.
Gross them out. Apply repellants commonly found in home improvement or garden centers. These work on detouring the deer through smell, and must be reapplied often. Snow, rain, wind, and general breaking down of the material is enough to reduce its effectiveness. This means reapplying ever 2 weeks on average (more often if it rains).
Repellants are effective in most cases, but they aren’t completely failsafe. If the winter is especially tough, and food is scarce, deer may ignore the repellant and choose to eat what is available.
You can also choose to install plants which deer aren’t prone to eating. When you’re selecting a plant, consult with a nursey, landscape, or horticulture professional on what plants are deer resistant.
Finally, do these things now, in the autumn. You want to prevent deer from even starting, as once deer have begun accessing your property to eat your plants, it’s considerably harder to mitigate the problem. Deer begin looking for alternative food sources once their traditional food becomes scarce. That most commonly begins in the early winter. Take your property off the menu before they begin looking!