The change of seasons can be a critical time to care for your landscape. Changes in temperature, lighting, and precipitation have significant effects on your outdoor spaces. Today we’ll cover some tips and reminders to get the most out of, and best protect, your investment in your landscape this fall.
Fall is the best time to seed your lawn
Lawns invariably benefit from over-seeding by replacing old, dying plant material with younger and more resilient seedlings. An over-seeded lawn typically produces a more healthy and viable turf while also discouraging the opportunity for weed growth.
In New Hampshire, fall brings cooler ambient temperatures while the soil conditions remain relatively warm. This provides an environment where new grass seeds can germinate in favorable conditions while having less competition because of a lower weed population. As a result, the seeds are more likely to mature into healthy turf.
Fall annuals and seasonal displays
Due to the incredible variety of tree species in New England, we typically do not experience a shortage of color and beauty during the fall. As a result, we can overlook or underutilize our existing planters, gardens, and outdoor spaces. Once the leaves have fallen from the trees, our outdoor spaces can turn drab and unappealing quickly. But there are things you can do to keep your property beautiful year-round.
Seasonal décor can include frost resistant organic additions like chrysanthemums, harvest items like cornstalks and pumpkins, or decorative fixtures like holiday lighting or festive features. These items can turn an otherwise drab property into an eye-catching, vibrant space you’ll be happy to call your own. Preparation for your decor plan may be necessary. For example, your local retailers or landscapers may have more limited supplies, your homeowner’s association may have restrictions, or you may simply want to have time to view a variety of options.
Adjust your landscape lighting to coincide with daylight saving time and changes in seasonal sunlight
Landscape lighting is a great way to accentuate your property after sundown while also keeping it safe. Either a digital or mechanical timer control many of these systems, and it’s essential to alter the timer as needed for changes in seasonal sunlight or daylight savings. It’s inefficient to have your landscape lighting on when the sun is still lighting your property, or when the light isn’t necessary. Conversely, as daylight periods get shorter, the time landscape lighting should be utilized grows.
There are numerous ways to resolve these challenges. If you have a digital or mechanical timer, adjusting the timer in relation to your specific needs is a quick and economical solution. Installation and utilization of photoelectric sensors is another solution which can provide an “automatic” feature to your landscape lighting cycles. Both of these solutions can be performed by a qualified landscaper, with the latter in particular requiring specific training.
Cut back select perennials
During the fall, certain perennials see health advantages when cut back. These cut backs can help reduce exposure to potential fungus or disease in the late fall and winter seasons. Other perennials are easier and cleaner to cut back after a few frost cycles, but before the plant material dies or becomes limp and difficult to handle. In these instances, the cuts made are crisper, the results are cleaner, and the plant is better prepared for new growth in the spring.
It is important to understand that cut backs are beneficial for only select perennials. A landscape or horticulture professional is best prepared to know which plants would benefit from a fall cut back, and the best method to realize the desired benefits.
Fertilizing shrubs for an extra nutrient boost before winter and frozen ground
Most plants change their physiology based on the season. In many ways, plants like shrubs go into a state that is comparable to hibernation. Much like hibernating animals, a plant’s ability to gain nutrients before winter is vital to their survival in winter and their recovery in spring.
Fertilizing your shrubs in the fall is important to provide them with nutrients. The soil in the fall is warm enough to absorb water and nutrients while also being able to convey the nutrients to your shrubs. This will enable your shrubs to prepare themselves better to maintain health through the winter, and give them a head start in the summer.
Apply anti-desiccant on broadleaf evergreens
Desiccation occurs when a plant is unable to replace the water in their leaves quicker than water lost through transpiration. Winter is especially problematic regarding desiccation. This is because as the ground freezes, available water for plants is severely reduces while the ambient humidity becomes very low, and this exacerbates transpiration.
Anti-desiccants are typically best applied in temperatures between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit; this is commonly mid to late fall in New Hampshire. This time also happens to be immediately before the winter season when plants are most at risk. We’ve found rhododendrons, holly, inkberry, and boxwood receive good results from fall applications of anti-desiccants.
Protect your vulnerable plant material from deer
By far, the best way to prevent damage from deer is to select plant material that is unappealing to them. Unfortunately, this may not be an option for you based on your existing plants or preferences. To further complicate matters, as fall and winter persist, deer may be forced to find nutrition from sources other than what is available to them in the spring and summer. Their resourcefulness may drive them onto your property if you have available food sources.
One way to mitigate deer damage is to restrict deer access to your property. Fence installation options may be permanent or temporary. It’s important to ensure the installed fence is both secure and high enough to deter the deer from your property. Otherwise, you may find deer become “fenced in” on your property, which creates new challenges. Another way to prevent deer-related damage is to use a repellant. There are commercially produced repellants, as well as organic items that utilize a putrid smell to deter deer.
Regardless of the solution or mixture of solutions utilized, the best plan is to complete installation of deer protection before the ground freezes and first snow arrives.
Winterize your irrigation system
While daytime temperatures during the fall can remain relatively warm, at night the chances of freezing temperatures increase. As a result, it’s important to be mindful of your irrigation system and garden spigots. Failure to remove water from these systems, typically through the use of compressed air, will likely result in damage to the system.
In addition to costly repairs, a damaged system will refill with water as scheduled if it is not turned off. This can lead to additional property damage through erosion or environmental damage caused by excessive runoff. In the Lakes Region, we need to be mindful of runoff that can include the results of a damaged irrigation system.
Whether you do it yourself, or hire a landscape professional, the tasks you perform in the fall can have a lasting effect on your landscape for seasons to come.