Expert Advice: Fall & Winter Landscapes


Terry Childs, President

Should I remove the leaves from my lawn?

Yes, but if possible, mulch them as much as possible to allow the mulched leaves to fall between the grass blades. This will provide a decent amount of organic matter for the soil and will help reduce the weed count in the spring.

When is the latest I can fertilize my lawn?

Natural fertilizers are broken down by microbes in the soil, so anytime the microbes and the plants are taking in nutrients is a good time to fertilize. The fall fertilization is really the first fertilization of the spring, so anytime you can safely walk on the grass is a good time to fertilize.

Will my grass seed that I have just applied germinate this fall?

Grass seed typically needs a temperature above 15 degrees to germinate, so like your fertilization, a late fall seeding is your first spring seeding, and as such, should germinate at the same time or sooner than many weed seeds. Grass seed will germinate in the dark while most weed seeds need sunlight. So, seeding before you mulch your leaves on the lawn will be very beneficial.

Should I remove the leaves from my garden beds?

If you can leave the leaves on the beds, you will be providing a little extra protection to the perennials in your beds as they will act as a mulch. These leaves will also provide an overwintering home for many beneficial insects. However, you will probably want to remove the leaves in the spring.

Should I cut back the perennials in my garden?

No, many overwintering pollinators will use the “dead” stalks etc., as a home for the winter. Many perennials will have seed heads well into the season and provide a food source. Plus, the leaves from the perennials will house many beneficial insects.

Can I plant in the fall?

If the ground isn’t frozen, yes, you can plant trees and shrubs. When planting, always remember to dig the hole twice as wide as the ball of the plant. Don’t dig it any deeper, as the root ball must sit soundly on existing soil. If planting an individual plant, backfill with a combination of native soil that you took out of the hole, compost and new soil.

Make sure these newly planted shrubs and trees are watered when you plant, as this will ensure there are no air pockets. Watering is not needed for the plants as they will be dormant, except Evergreens. Evergreens will need to be watered until the ground is frozen.

Vegetable Gardens

Some plants may still be growing, but many others are ready to have their remains removed. It is important to remove these plants, so you are not overwintering any diseases, fungal infections etc. in the dead foliage. This is also a good time to add compost to the top of the soil and allow winter to help incorporate it into the soil.

Preparing for Spring

Take the time to realistically look at what you want and what you are prepared to do or hire others to do. Perennial beds can give months of pleasure but need maintenance. Annual beds will provide a flower show all season, but again, will need to be maintained.

Do you have areas of your lawn that never grows grass? Perhaps a ground cover will work better. Is your deck showing signs of age? Perhaps next year is the time to replace or reface it. But, before you do ask a few questions:

Is it in the right location?

Does it suit our family needs?

Is it too big? Small?

Are you thinking of an addition to your house? Perhaps this is the time to look at outside rooms. We can construct an outside kitchen with built in barbecues, sinks, refrigerators, and yes, even televisions and music speakers!

And, of course, don’t forget outdoor lighting!


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