Preparing Your Yard for Winter


Fall is the time to get things ready for the next years growing season, spring is too late.

Most of us have two different areas to consider when we are talking about our yards. First are bedding areas such as flower beds and garden areas and the second is your lawn. Both need special treatment in the fall if you want to be ready for the next years growing season.

This is written for those of you who live in areas where are three growing seasons plus one where things go dormant and the ground can freeze.

Let us look at bedding areas first:

 First remove all dead plants and weeds and them into your compost pile after you separate out all parts that look to be insect-infested or diseased. These should be either burned or sent to a landfill.

 Anything you burn such as the diseased parts or wood that is too big to compost can be used to build the soil. Ash is high in nutrients if you burn wood in stove or fireplace spread the ash in your garden.

 Leaves are great compost and can be used in two ways. Whole they breakdown very slowly and work as a well to slow erosion and provide a great insulation to the soil. To gain good compost quickly shred leaves and by spring they will be a great addition to your soil.

 This is the time to add organic material to the soil to keep it fresh and open for both air and water. This can be well decomposed manure (Fresh manure is not recommended), peat moss, composts and others. You then need to add something that can provide a wide range of soil biology such as a ‘Complete Natural Humate’. Compost tea can add some of this biology but you have to use it quickly or much of the biology will die. Worm tea will add a good amount of bacillus but will be light in fungi.

 If you use a synthetic fertilizer make sure it is a slow release type fertilizer. I recommend organic fertilizer for better soil health and to protect the environment. Organic fertilizers are slow release by their nature. The potassium and phosphorus numbers should be checked with local experts to see what is right for your area.

 Add a three to four inch layer of mulch to protect your plant’s roots and the soil. This will help keep the temperature in the ground more constant so you do not get premature growth during a sudden warm spell. The insulation mulch gives your soil can extend the early growth period before the ground freezes so roots and soil biology can become established. Be careful not to draw to much nitrogen out of the soil when using things with a high carbon to nitrogen ratio.

 For those of you that are in areas where there is time for an after harvest cover crop Fall/Winter cover crops are a good way to rebuild your soil. You need to consult with local experts as to which winter cover crop works best in your area. There is many good natural nitrogen building corps available.

 If you do your own composting make sure that it is set up so that the area gets plenty of air movement. It should be contained in a manner where it can get air so that it does not stay wet and mold. A chicken wire enclosure works well. There are many good programs on the internet about proper composting. Be sure you watch carefully what goes into your compost pile so you do not have harmful pathogens.

Where you are in the country and what type of soil you have has a lot to do with what you add to your soil in the way of nutrients and organic material. Learn about the plants you are planning to grow and make sure they like your soil conditions.  If you are planning to grow acid loving plants such as blueberries or azaleas you can add pine bark and pine needles into your soil mix to help bring down the soils pH.  In general use Line to raise your soil pH and sulfur to lower it. There is no substitute for knowing your soil and its needs plus the needs of the plants you are growing. Learn the pH of your soil and the needs of the plants you are planning on growing. Your local extension agent can be of great help to you. They will perform pH tests for a very reasonable price.

Turf and lawn care:

Fall is when you set the stage for the next year’s lawn. Proper preparation before the ground freezes will make a major difference in how your lawn will look next summer. How you do it will vary with the type of grass you grow, and your climate:

 Removal of foreign matter – Rake up any leaves and/or other material that builds up on the grass before it starts to decompose. Do not throw these leaves away because they are a great addition to a good working compost pile. Leaves left on the grass can cause problems such as reduced sunlight, water runoff, and patches of mold to gain a foothold. Removal of leaves will lessen but not eliminate the problems with moles and voles.

 Remove excess thatch and aerate your lawn – Thatch accumulations such as grass clippings can form a barrier that will reduce water penetration and slow nutrients from entering the root zone. What you can rake out is not something to throw away but add to the compost pile. Removing excess thatch opens up the path for water and nutrients to get to the grass’s roots.  You need to take it a step further and use an aerator to put holes into the ground for better air, water and nutrient penetration. Traffic across a lawn such a mower or just walking on it works to compact the soil. The only way to reverse this is by proper aeration. Your local nursery or garden center can help you with what works best with your grass.

 Adjust your soils pH – Consult your County Extension Agent to see what I the way of a soil sample they want you to bring for a soil pH test. Between your Extension agent and your local garden center they can tell you what is the best soil pH for the type of grass you grow.  Normally most grasses grow best between 6.5 and 7.0 ph. To raise your soil pH use lime and to lower it use sulfur.

 Winter Grass – Seed early in the Fall so that the new grass grows in even to give you the good green look you are after. If you plant winter grass water it deeply when you water so the roots down deep in the soil.

 Weed Control – Fall is the time to look at weed control and there are now a number of good organic products that work in many areas.  Check with your local garden center for what works best in your area. Be aware that most of the chemical herbicides are toxic to most animals and the environment as a whole.

 Fertilizer & Amendments – Fall fertilization should be a total nutrient adjustment to provide your lawn all it needs to stay healthy during the winter months. Look toward using organic products. Synthetic fertilizer and amendments can harm pets, wildlife and humans plus having major detrimental effects to the environment. Organic fertilizer releases slower which is another major benefit in cold weather. Contrary to most thinking you do not need high numbers on fertilizers. A 3 percent nitrogen organic fertilizer can give you the same benefits as 15 percent or more in a synthetic. I like using a fish hydrolysate called MegaGreen in that uses the waste of farm grown fish and they have found a way to make it smell pleasant. With it I use Turf & Garden Pro by TurfPro USA to get the other trace elements I need along with a good dose of healthy soil biology.  

 Snow – Be sure you shovel snow on to grass areas before you apply any de-icing materials. Many of the chemicals and or salt will do major harm to your grass.

If you have questions or comments you can contact me

. To make sure you have plenty of good soil biology spray the garden down with Turf & Garden Pro liquid by TurfPro USA. Use from 2 to 4 ounces per gallon of water depending on the condition of your soil.  This insures a good supply of biology, trace elements. The Humate portion of Turf & Garden Pro provides the soil biology the food it needs until it is established in the compost.

Organic Products Company +TurfPro USA + +  (407)340-7639

(3015A)       9/17/2010

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