Do’s And Don’ts Of Fall Landscaping

[ Blog/News ]

Do’s And Don’ts Of Fall Landscaping

This article is supposed to be about the “do’s and don’ts” of fall landscaping. The truth is though; there are very few don’ts when compared with the do’s.

Talk to most people familiar with horticulture and landscaping and they will agree fall is a great time for landscape maintenance and installation. While spring is the season that most people think about updating their yards, fall is often an even better time for these outdoor enhancements.

Depending on whether you are planting, pruning, renovating your lawn or adding irrigation, there are many reasons why autumn is a prime season for landscape projects. One of the main benefits of landscaping in the fall is increased moisture and cooler temperatures. This weather is beneficial as it helps new plants become established and provides a good growing environment for new or renovated lawns. It is also a good time to think about irrigation and drainage as the increased rain will reveal problem areas where water is pooling. Additionally, irrigation needs to be prepared for the cold winter months ahead by proper winterization. I will outline in further detail the landscaping that should be performed in the fall and what should wait.

Landscaping in the Fall

Plants, Shrubs & Trees

Most landscape renovations involve adding new trees, shrubs and plants of all types. Fall is great time to install new plant material because it provides the best environment for plants to become established. The cooler temperatures and increased rain helps root development and reduces the initial shock a plant experiences when it is transplanted. Transplant shock is also reduced because the plants are in their winter dormancy period. Planting during this time also gives maximum amount of time for the plants to grow before the hot, drier weather of the following summer. There is also a practical reason why planting and doing other landscape enhancements is a smart thing to consider in the fall. It is during this time that landscape companies are not as busy and can more likely schedule projects sooner.

Lawn

Similar to plants, shrubs and trees, fall is also a good time to maintain, renovate or replace turf. September, October, and November are great months to prepare your lawn for the harsh elements of the upcoming winter for the same reason as stated above; fall is a cooler time of year with increased moisture. There are several steps that need to be taken to ensure your lawn has the proper base to withstand extreme freezes, frost and thaw patterns, soggy wet conditions and a lack of sunshine. At a minimum, lawns must be given a proper feeding with a winterizer fertilizer. This provides your lawn with the nutrients it needs as it enters the dormant winter period.

Your lawn can be further strengthened for winter with proper lawn renovations such as aerating, thatching and over-seeding. However, the window of time for over-seeding or seeding a new lawn is much shorter in the fall than in the spring so over seeding and adding new lawn is an item that, depending on your schedule, could wait until spring. An important fact that few people realize is that autumn is when lawn root systems are the most active in their growth and development. Now is the time to provide your lawn with the resources it needs to be lush and healthy in the spring. Raking leaves on a regular basis is another item that will protect your grass. Though your lawn is entering a dormant season it still needs maximum light and air flow. Letting leaves remain on your grass will suffocate your turf and leave brown and yellow spots that look ugly during the winter months and delay growth in the spring.

Irrigation & Drainage

Irrigation and drainage is another key part of the landscape that needs to be prepared for winter. You should take advantage of the fall months to assess the state of your irrigation system and determine potential problem areas for winter drainage. The main item concerning your irrigation is to ensure that it is properly winterized for freezing temperatures to come. This process uses highly pressurized air to blow all water from the pipes and heads to protect them from freezing and cracking.

Fall is also a good time to spot areas that are not draining properly. Soil can become dry and compacted over the dry, hot summer months and once the rain of fall arrives, pooling water can reveal where drainage needs to be improved. Another landscape enhancement, which can help with drainage but also protect structures, is to install drain rock strips around buildings. This can assist with mitigating water run-off from the building downspouts and garden beds but also keep mud from splashing up on the building siding.

Preparing for Winter

In addition to enhancements, there are other key landscape maintenance items that need to be made a priority in the fall. I’ve already addressed lawn maintenance above, but similarly, plants need to be properly prepared for winter.

Don’t Feed Plants…

While lawns need to be fertilized in the fall, most plants should not receive feeding during this time. They are on the verge of dormancy and any fertilizer will force the plant to expend energy on growing, beginning new softwood growth which is then vulnerable to the harsh freezes ahead. This has the potential to damage and possibly kill the plant.

…But Do Feed Trees & Shrubs!

The one exception to this is deciduous trees and shrubs. Deciduous plants store their energy for the winter so instead of directing that food towards new growth it is used to preserve the plant until the spring. In terms of pest and insect control, most treatments should wait until dormancy in the winter. Dormant oil is an environmentally friendly product that can be used to suffocate insect eggs nesting in trees and shrubs. During the plant’s dormant period is the ideal time to perform this treatment. Some treatments have varying ideal application times depending on an insect’s life cycle. Crain fly, for example, should wait until late winter to be treated.

Pruning

Fall is also the time that the majority of shrubs and trees should be pruned as their growth period is ending and they are entering into dormancy. There are, however, a few varieties and situations where pruning should wait until the spring. Radical non-selective pruning, such as cutting back a shrub to the ground or significantly cutting back a hedge, should wait until the spring. This kind of pruning can stimulate new soft growth that may freeze. There are also a few varieties of trees and shrubs that should be pruned at alternate times of the year. Trees, such as the Elm and Camperdown, can’t be pruned while they are in leaf as they can get Dutch elm disease. Generally speaking, Heaths and Heathers are another plant that shouldn’t be pruned in the fall. Most Heaths bloom in the fall and winter and Heathers bloom in the summer so pruning in the spring avoids clipping new buds and gives time to promote bud growth for the next bloom time. Because the Irish Heath blooms late spring until fall it should be pruned in the early spring.

Weed Control

Along with pruning, weed control and bed mulching is a maintenance item that is important to do during the fall. I’ve talked about plants entering dormancy and how this relates to how you care for and prepare them for winter. Just as you fertilize lawn and deciduous plants before dormancy, weeds should be killed before they enter dormancy. The reason for this is once they hit dormancy, you have no control over them other than hand-pulling. This is more labor intensive and it is why I recommend a thorough treatment of your weeds before winter. Once this is done, you can use the leaves that were raked off of your lawn and use them as mulch throughout your beds. This will protect and insulate your plants while also keeping weeds down in the spring. Though this isn’t always a preferred practice by clients because of aesthetics, it is the best practice environmentally as it is a natural way to control weeds and strengthen soil quality.

Be Prepared!

As I’ve revealed, while there are a few landscape tasks that should not be done in the fall, for the most part, it is the best time to maintain the grounds, prepare plants for the winter ahead, and install new design projects. The main “don’t” when it comes to landscaping in the fall is really: “don’t wait!”.

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Goodbye, Summer And Hello, Fall

[ Blog/News ]

Goodbye, Summer And Hello, Fall

Dear Summer,
Why is it that we have this short romance every July and August? We have such a great time together and yet you always disappear for ten months out of the year. You once said, “It’s not you, it’s me.” I’m still having a hard time making sense of that statement because it seems like things are going so well between us. What about all those great days of backyard barbeques, strolls on the beach, walks around the neighborhood, early sunrises and late sunsets? Why do you have to go so soon? I wish you did not have to go. I will miss you so much and will dream of our reunion. Will you please consider coming back earlier next year? Maybe June 1st?

Sincerely,
All Washingtonians

It’s that time of year again!

Does anyone else feel the frustration of seeing summer slip away all too quickly? We have some of the most amazing summer weather here, and it is difficult to let it go. But let’s not get too carried away. Fall is not all that bad either. The leaves begin to change, a favorite North Face jacket comes out of the closet and some of us begin to slip into our favorite pair of Ugg boots or slippers. Not to mention, the coffee shops begin to switch from iced beverages to hot caffeinated treats. So I guess fall isn’t that bad after all. It’s a great season to transition to.

As we make our summer to fall conversion, it’s important that we take some time out to prepare our properties for the realities of fall and winter. Now is a great time to create and perform a maintenance checklist. What follows is a list of “to-do” items that may be useful in preparing your property. If you have a current maintenance provider, set a meeting with them and go over this list so that a plan is in place to ensure you are maintaining and managing your real estate investment well.

1. Check Caulking.

One of the least expensive maintenance items you can perform is caulking. Caulking around door frames, windows and any pipe or wire entry points can help keep the cold out and the heat in. It will prevent any moisture from getting in and freezing, resulting in cracks to different building elements. One quick and easy test would be that if your caulk line has a gap wider than a nickel, then it needs to be filled. In addition to this, make sure there is adequate weather stripping around your exterior doors. You should not be able to see any daylight coming through your door jamb.

2. Turn Off Exterior Faucets.

If your water pipes are not drained, they have the potential to freeze which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10 to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home then go out to the spigot and open it and allow any water to drain out. Once this is done, shut off the hose bib and place an insulated cover over it.

3. Drain Your Lawn Irrigation System . . .

But call in a professional to do the job. Draining sprinklersystem pipes, as with spigots, will help avoid freezing and leaks and will save you money next spring when you turn on the system and find there are no broken pipes!

4. Inspect Your Roof.

Now is the time to determine if there are any loose or missing shingles. Be proactive to deal with the repairs versus after the first major rainstorm and your roof is leaking. Have your roofer or maintenance personnel check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too.

5. Clean Out Gutters.

After leaves have fallen, clean out the gutters and downspouts, flush them with water, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if necessary. Replace old or damaged gutters with new ones.

6. Cover Air Conditioners.

Vacuum internal parts of air conditioners. Wrap the outside box with an approved tarp or plastic air conditioner cover to prevent rusting of vital parts.

7. Stock Up/Plan Ahead.

Head to your local hardware store and grab enough bags of de-icer for your community. For those communities that have the threat of snow in their future, make sure that your snow removal contract is signed and in place.

Be Ready For Fall

Despite the parting sadness of summer leaving us once again, there’s a lot to get ready for as fall approaches. Fall is a great season in our state and with proper planning and preparation your property can be ready to brave the elements once more. Contact your building maintenance team of professionals to not only create a plan, but implement the plan! Have a great fall!

P. S. Summer, we look forward to seeing you again soon.

By Sean Anderson

This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of WSCAI Community Associations Journal.
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Chapter Magazine

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Journal Advertising Partners:

  • Newman HOA CPA Audit & Tax
  • CIT Group Inc. - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • The Copeland Group - Logo
  • Bell-Anderson & Associates - Logo
  • Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Ruff Construction - logo
  • Charter Construction - Logo
  • Popular Association Banking
  • SSI Construction
  • Sagewater
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Pacific Engineering Technologies, Inc - Logo

  • Pacific Western Bank - Small Ad
  • Association Reserves of Washington - Ad