Updated: May 20
Puttering around the garden and keeping things tidy isn't as burdensome during the summer when we'll find any excuse to enjoy the beautiful Allentown weather. Even though our lives might be busier and the weather might not be as warm once autumn arrives, there are still plenty of things to do around the garden before the winter. Here's how to ace your fall yard cleanup so that you can draw more attention to those gorgeous autumn colors, and away from any eyesores around your yard.
YOUR FALL YARD CLEANUP CHECKLIST
Prune Your Trees and Shrubs
Generally, the rule about pruning in the fall is this: don't prune in the fall. But, as always in the gardening world, there are some exceptions. It's true that spring is usually the prime time to prune your plants, either before or after flowering depending on the type, but many trees and shrubs can handle a little trim during autumn, too. It's a good idea to remove any dying limbs or diseased branches before they have a chance to infect the rest of the plant. Remember to destroy and dispose of cuttings from diseased plants to avoid spreading the infection. You can also remove shoots and suckers that form around the base of some of your shrubs. You can also trim your hostas and other slug-prone plants after they go dormant to get rid of any eggs. Other than that, it's best to leave your heavy pruning and shaping until spring.
Get Rid of Your Annuals
There really should be a ballad written for our beloved annuals. Their vibrant beauty graces our gardens for only a short time, but it's definitely worth the inevitable heartbreak. We get why you want to hang on to them as long as you can, but once they're gone, there isn't much of a chance of them surviving an Allentown winter. Once they start fading and shriveling, they're just an eyesore to your garden and an invitation for pests. After the first frost, remove them from your garden beds and containers, then compost them.
Tidy Your Garden Beds
While you're plucking spent annuals from your garden beds, it's a good idea to tidy them up as well. If any weeds have crept their way into your flower beds or veggie garden, take this time to remove them before they get a chance to spread further. Since soil gets moved around and compacted over time, top up your garden soil if necessary, and apply mulch around the base of any perennials that will be left outside to weather the winter. You'll thank yourself after the snow melts, when all you'll have to do is seed, plant, and prune.
Clean Up the Lawn
Fall lawn care is, arguably, as important or even more important than spring lawn care. It's what you do to prepare your landscape for winter that determines what you'll be working with in the spring. Read our lawn care guide for everything you need to know about preparing your yard for winter this year. Aside from actually taking care of your lawn, the most significant part of lawn cleanup at this time of year is raking leaves. Not only does a blanket of brown, dead leaves look untidy, but once it's covered in a second blanket (of snow), the heavy layers smother the grass underneath and threaten the health of your lawn. Raking can be an overwhelming task, so our best advice is to start early—raking smaller amounts as they drop each week will help you stay on top of it much more easily. Remember to bag them into appropriate, compostable bags.
Put Away Garden Furniture
Next up on your fall yard cleanup checklist is to start storing away your patio furniture to keep it from getting damaged by snow, ice, and wind. Take in your patio sets, playsets, and other garden decorations, and store them in a safe, dry space like a basement, garage, or shed. If you have water features, like water fountains or birdbaths that are breakable, take those in too. Try to leave some kind of water source outside for winter birds, though, even if it's just a barrel or bucket.
Cover the BBQ
Who said grilled steak is only a summer evening thing? As long as you have a sheltered patio or a barbeque cover, you can keep grilling all year long. If you are going to keep it out, make sure you choose a good quality cover that's water-resistant and durable. Canvas covers tend to be the most weatherproof, but you can probably get away with vinyl or polyester if your barbeque is well-sheltered. Look for covers without lining, since rodents will actually nibble on the felt inside lined covers and use the felt pieces to build their nests. Lastly, find one with tie-downs, so you don't risk the cover flying away during a storm.
Closing the Pool
It's no secret that closing the pool is a task we like to delay—it's like an official goodbye to summer and an admission that winter is coming. Whether you're winterizing a pool or taking down an above-ground pool altogether, it's essential to give yourself enough time to clean and close it properly. If your pool can be left outside all winter, get the cover on it before leaves start to land in the water. The earlier you drain and close your pool, the easier it will be to re-open next year.
Clean Out the Gutters
It's likely that throughout October and November, leaves and other debris have found their way to your house's gutters. Proper drainage is critical during the winter when the constant freezing and thawing can take a toll on your shingles and even lead to water damage in the basement. Now is the best time to clean out your gutters and unclog any blockages in the spouts before winter arrives. Everyone would prefer a neat and tidy landscape to a messy, unruly one. Fall comes along and tends to make that a little more difficult, with dead plants, falling leaves, and out-of-season outdoor furniture. Keep a tidy landscape this autumn, and you'll be one step ahead of the game when the snow melts next spring!