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Fall Prep for Lawn and Garden in 8 Easy Steps

Fall Prep for Lawn and Garden in 8 Easy Steps

Fall Prep for Lawn and Garden in 8 Easy Steps

As the days shorten and cooler weather signals the onset of that first chilling frost, it’s time to harvest the last of your summer veggies, and prepare your garden for a well-earned Winter respite. As summer wanes and Autumn begins, there are active steps you can take that will help prepare your garden for its Spring regeneration. If you do these simple jobs now, it will make your Spring gardening prep tasks that much easier. We’ve broken down your Fall Prep into a checklist of 8 simple steps which, when undertaken over three or four weekends, can easily be completed before Winter settles in. Here is your Fall Prep To-Do list.

1. Evaluate the wins and losses.

Autumn is the time decide what will remain the same, and what you’re going to change. Did any of your plants have a fantastic season and grow beyond the allotted space? This is when to decide if you’re going to divide overgrown plants or just move them entirely. Conversely, did any of your new plants or trees fail? Some plants seem to struggle the first year (Hops are a classic example). Take a good look at anything that did not thrive. You’ll have to decide if it’s still acclimating or is winter going to finish it off? Be ruthless. It’s better to be decisive now so that you can make alternate plans instead of waiting until mid-summer next year to admit that the plant has failed. Here’s a photo essay of our colleague Craig, after he admitted that a beloved fruit tree was too stunted by disease to thrive. He used our Penetration Shovel to dig up and remove the tree.

Evaluate trees

Evaluate your trees and plants. Be ruthless when deciding which to keep and which to give up on.

2. Prune fruit trees and other large ornamentals.

The art pruning is much more than can be fully covered here, but here are three simple rules-of-thumb for a beginner.

  • Branches should each have their own horizontal space, any branch that looks like it’s becoming intertwined with its neighbor, or worse, touching of barks, should be pruned away from each other.
  • Remember that for every cut you make, the tree will make a counter-move. It’ll send out a new leader at the next bud upstream from your cut. You should see every cut as a message to the tree that you are rejecting one branch and simultaneously requesting a replacement. Cut accordingly.
  • Prune with a sharp pruner that cuts cleanly and decisively. Otherwise you’ll cause excessive damage that leaves the tree prone to disease and insect infestation. Our absolute best all-around Ratcheting Hand Pruner will cut cleanly through live branches, plus, it’s ratcheting blade cuts dead branches just as easily.
Ratching Hand Pruner

Evaluate your trees and plants. Be ruthless when deciding which to keep and which to give up on.

3. Move herbs and annuals indoors.

Move all the plants that you need to bring indoors for winter. It’s likely they have grown significantly in the summer sun, you’ll likely have to prune them back to a size that matches the limited space and light of being indoors. This Small Bypass Pruner is perfect for potted plants and harvesting produce for the kitchen.

Small Bypass Pruner

Small hand pruners are great for dead-heading and prepping your less hardy plants for a move indoors for the winter.

4. Improve and Pamper Your Soil.

Your summer crop, heavy rains, daily watering and even strong winds, all diminish the quality of your soil.

  • Add soil amendments, such as compost, manure or whatever is necessary to replace nutrients. Research and experiment with winter-time cover crops. Although cover cropping is a method often used by large commercial farms, it’s also a great way to add nutrients to your small garden plots. But before you start you’ll need to weed and loosen soil. Loosening soil adds loft and texture, and makes it easier for nutrients to flow throughout.
  • >Weed (Use Grampa’s Weeder, and Set of Three Japanese Weeding Tools); and collect plant debris and old mulch (Use these great tools, including: Set of Leaf and Garden Debris Bags, Collapsing Garden and Leaf Rake, Professional Mulching Fork, and Natural Jute Leaf Bags.) The weeds and other debris can be composted and by next spring or summer, the organic material will be ready to enrich your garden soil.
  • Loosen soil if necessary, with an assist from the Professional 4-Tine Gardening Fork. Compacted soil makes it harder for water and nutrients to circulate.
Improve and Pamper your soil

After harvesting summer crops, add nutrients to balance the pH and replenish your garden-bed soil.

5. Protect watering equipment and tools from freezing.

Empty rain barrels and any other catchment containers that will freeze and be damaged by ice. This includes watering cans, your garden hoses and the various nozzles, sprinklers and connectors. Move these tools inside, to your basement, garage or gardening shed.

protect watering equipment

Bring in all your watering and catchment equipment. Before the first frost, hoses should be disconnected, drained and moved indoors for the winter.

6. Repair the infrastructure.

Repair corner blowouts in planter beds, fix gates, fences and posts. Frozen soil will heave these items further out of position, so strengthen them before the first frost.

Garden Beds

Prepare your garden beds for winter by repairing and fortifying them. Cycles of thawing and freezing in winter and early spring can wreak havoc with these and other wooden structures like gates and garden posts.

7. Anticipate tree damage from ice, wind and snow.

Unless this is your first year in your home, you probably already know which trees typically lose branches during winter. Are there any that you can prune preemptively? Similarly, did you notice any trees that are starting to shade your garden or spread too close to the house? This is the time to remove major branches. If you don’t already own this equipment, we have a great assortment of pruners and pole saws, including our Jumbo Pole Saw & Pruner Set, Arborist Folding and Extending Trim Saw and the High Reach 19’ Pole Saw.

Arborist Folding and Extending Trim saw

Use a pole saw or extending trim saw to cut branches and limbs that are likely to come down in snow or ice storms, especially ones that are close to the house or overhang your electric or cable wires.

8. Service your tools.

Once you’ve prepared the garden for winter, the last task is to prepare your tools for their winter rest. Clean and sharpen your pruners, shovels and diggers. We recommend conditioning your gardening tools and clearing implements (like axes, mauls and hatchets) with them with Ballistol multi-purpose oil. Ballistol was originally created for soldiers, to keep their weapons conditioned. Because it works on both metal and wood, it’s a natural hack to use for your outdoor tools. Tune up your pruners. If they’ve become loose, tighten the pivot screw. Usually this only requires a small, clockwise turn. If they are too tight or if they stick, they are most likely gummed up with sap, plant residue, and/or rust. A small brush and a rust eraser should take care of this. Resort to solvents only when absolutely necessary and even then, use a citrus based cleaner instead of thinners and other harsh chemicals. (Oven cleaner is a terrible thing to use on your garden tools). When you store your axes and hatchets for the winter, check our blog post on axe sharpening, for a concise how-to guide.

maintain your axes and hatchets

Autumn is a good time to sharpen and clean your chopping tools. Keep them handy through the winter, though, because you’ll invariably need to split rounds or kindling for the fireplace or wood stove. Unlike gardening implements, axes and hatchets are four-season tools.

Written by Anthony Francis

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