For many homeowners, yard work is something that ends with the first autumn freeze and begins anew with the spring thaw.
Forgive us for gloating, but one of the joys of living in the Sunshine State — if you truly enjoy gardening and landscape maintenance — is the opportunity to indulge in it year-round.
However, there are some classic tasks that apply to every yard and garden, no matter the climate. Performing these chores in the fall or early winter will help ensure a healthy head start on the next warm-weather growing season.
Follow along for our tips on freshening up your cool-weather landscape.
Clean it up
Ah, the time-honored rite of fall and winter — raking leaves. In some areas of the United States, that includes pine straw, pine cones, cedar cones and sweet gum balls. Here in Florida, it’s dead palm fronds.
Regardless of what falls on your lawn, it must be cleaned up. Tree and shrub debris will cause grass and ground covers to yellow and eventually die if you don’t clean it up. Do this first.
The next clean-up item on your list is good news or bad news depending on how much you love (or despise) landscape maintenance and gardening. Now’s also the time to prune and trim shrubs, ornamental trees, gardens, and flower beds. Cut back (judiciously) any old dead growth to promote new growth for the next season.
Mind the lawn
Next, feed and aerate your lawn. It’s thirsty for nutrients after the heat of summer, and aerating it allows fertilizer and air to access and strengthen its root bed. Aerating (using a manual walk-behind version or a motorized attachment on a lawnmower) removes small plugs that are unnoticeable for the most part, and gradually dissipate after rain. They form tiny, manmade shafts for air, water and fertilizer.
Don’t forget to cut your grass. For those of you in cold-weather climates, you likely won’t have to do this chore again until spring. If you’re a new Florida resident or contemplating becoming one, just know that you’ll cut grass — or have someone else do it — year-round, although not as often in cooler seasons, we promise.
Plant new stuff
Depending on your climate, either autumn and early winter is the perfect time to plant new trees, shrubs and flowering perennials such as roses. Summer heat, especially in Florida and warmer U.S. regions, can stress new plantings and make constant watering and fertilizing — until new plants are established — more of a chore than it needs to be.
In contrast, cooler weather helps those new plantings acclimate to, and establish important root systems in their new homes. And you won’t have to water and feed them quite as often, as they learn to fend for themselves.
Don’t forget this critical step: mulch your new plantings to protect their roots and to hold water and nutrients close to those roots. It’s also a good idea to freshen any aged, faded mulch in flower beds, gardens or under decorative shrubs.
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