More fall clean up & landscaping tips …

Leave your ornamental grasses or animal-friendly plants intact

Some plants provide winter visual interest (like tall grasses) and have the added benefit of providing cover for animals and beneficiary insects. Hopefully it’s the animals and insects you desire, but who among us gets to choose? So I suggest you keep what looks good—to you or your wildlife … as long as you can keep the non-weed seed-laden ones.

First of all—remove sickly looking plants & items AND then destroy the debris

When cutting back and raking, focus first on what looks sickly. Like if certain perennials turned black—I cut them back and put them directly in the trash, not the compost. That goes for your lilacs (which may have had a powdery mildew). Then there’s fruit trees, roses and irises that may have had issues. If the leaves of your bearded iris have any evidence of insects such as borers, don’t hesitate—cut them back & destroy that foliage!

Don’t compost the remains if the plants look troubled, unless your compost is “cooking hot” enough. What’s “cooking hot” enough? Above 140 degrees is the temperature usually best to do the job of killing many weed seed and pathogens. Why take a chance if you’re unsure?

I recommend you put suspicious material, including the worst weeds, into black plastic bags, tie them shut, and put them in the sun to “cook things to death” for 10-14 days, then discard the debris.

What about your trees?

Next, walk around your property and have a good look at your trees and shrubs, to identify any vulnerable limbs. Remove vines that are intruding on them … and cut off broken or dead branches now to make sure winter weather doesn’t make things worse. Fertilize where & when you need. Evergreens need love too!

Save your leaves!

Save all the leaves you can, especially ones such as oaks that resist matting down the way maples do. I recommend you start a leaves-only compost pile this fall. According to many master gardeners—composted, shredded leaves are the best mulch. Many like working it into vegetable beds as part of their soil prep … it adds organic matter, too.

Late-season lawncare

Do your raking & thatching of lawn areas in the fall—not in spring—and overseed now. Consider topdressing with a half- or three-quarter-inch layer of compost onto areas that appear thin or damaged by this summer’s draught.

Most of all: Weed!

Besides cleaning up around diseased or healthy plants, this is the most important fall task of all. Even if you can’t weed—deadhead as many of your weeds as possible!

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