Hop on a hayride, stuff a scarecrow, or pick a pumpkin. It is the time of year for pumpkin spice, apple cider, and all that the fall season brings. Autumn is here and what better time to prepare lawns and outdoor areas for the seasons ahead. Before you grab a rake, check out these fall lawn care and composting tips:
Try an organic-based mulch. Adding 2 to 3 inches of wood chips, shredded bark, shredded leaves, or straw can provide nutrients and shade out weeds in plant beds.
Important – do not allow mulch to touch tree trunks – this can affect root and overall tree health.
Safely manage weeds in non-toxic ways:
- pour boiling water over weeds and repeating to increase effectiveness;
- pull weeds by hand; or
- tame weeds between cracks and stone areas with vinegar (a high acid spray) to kill the above ground portion. Repeat to increase effectiveness.
Leave grass clippings on the lawn. You can get 50 percent of your lawn’s nitrogen by leaving clippings on the lawn. This fall apply the other 50 percent by shredding leaves using a mulching mower and leaving them on the lawn.
Rules to follow when applying fertilizer:
- Fertilizers containing nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus can be applied between April 1 and November 30;
- “Look for the Zero” — your lawn may not need phosphorus. It is illegal to add it to your lawn if it’s not required – conduct a soil test to find out if your lawn needs it.
- do not apply fertilizer within 20 feet of any surface water unless there is at least 10 feet of abundant/thick vegetation which can slow down and capture sediment; and
- do not disperse fertilizer onto sidewalks and roads where it can easily run-off into storm drains or nearby waterways.
Turn and maintain existing compost piles.
- Greens (i.e. food scraps) provide nitrogen.
- Browns (i.e. fall leaves) are the carbon source and give the pile structure – allowing the movement of air.
- Air supplies the oxygen for microorganisms. Turn or mix the pile to increase air and speed up the breakdown.
- Water provides moisture. Pile too wet? Add some leaves, sawdust, or shredded newspaper. Too dry? Add some more water.
Collect leaves by your compost pile year-around. Add leaves throughout the winter — they make good insulation, helping the compost pile to retain heat.
Compost pumpkins. You can do this in your yard or by taking them to a community drop-off spot where your local town will compost it.
- Removing and roasting the seeds first, not only provides a tasty snack, but prevents any random pumpkin seedlings from growing in your compost during the next growing season.
- Remove the candles from with the pumpkins that were lit as jack-o-lanterns.
- Break the pumpkins into chunks if composting yourself, then cover with browns as not to attract bugs or animals.
Locate a year-round food scrap drop-off spot near you. You can drop-off qualifying items to be composted. Find a food scraps drop-off spot near you.
Time to plant — grass in bare spots, some bulb flowers, and garlic. Remember, vulnerable flower bulbs need to be dug up and stored in a cool, dry place so they do not freeze.