Fall Landscaping in Lincoln – 2017
With the official arrival of fall this month comes the return of pumpkin spice everything, autumn colors and fashion, new seasons of your favorite TV shows and of course, football – and if that doesn’t get you excited, it’s time to get some important tasks accomplished on your property! Well, exciting for some and not so much for others, but it should be on everyone’s radar regardless.
Although the weather may not necessarily reflect the shift into fall quite yet, it will soon enough, and then in the blink of an eye, it’s winter. That being the case, this month is prime time to check all of the season-change preparedness items off of the list and to tackle any projects you want to get accomplished for your outdoor enjoyment yet this year.
“Though we’re hoping any preparation for winter is several months away it is inevitable that the cold months of winter won’t evade us forever,” says Ken Svoboda with Ray’s Lawn & Landscape. “Preparation for winter is pretty much the same for both residential and commercial landscapes. It begins with sustaining a maintenance program through the fall months, which includes weeding the landscape areas, dead-heading perennials, and as leaves begin to fall, keeping them cleared away. Matted leaves form dense obstacles for fall rains and landscape watering to serve their purpose and can stunt the growth of the landscape plants. Speaking of rain and watering, it is essential that landscape plants go into their winter dormancy with an ample supply of moisture at their roots. Evergreen trees and shrubbery especially need root moisture, as these plants don’t go into complete dormancy. Though they no longer continue to grow during the winter months their root systems need the moisture to maintain life.
In fact, in order to maintain optimal conditions for the following spring, water your lawn and plants as long into winter as possible. The root systems of both your turf and your landscape plants will continue to uptake moisture through the early winter months until the soil is frozen. Evergreen shrubbery and trees will continue uptaking moisture well into, and in many cases throughout, the winter. For the evergreens in your landscape, especially new or young plants, a slow deep watering throughout the winter will help ensure a healthy plant come spring.
It seems the most common question in the fall is also the most common question in the spring, ‘When can you get started?’ In most cases, landscapers are finally getting caught up from the many projects they’ve sold and have been working on throughout the summer. If a fall landscape project is on your want or need list, it’s best to get on your landscaper’s project list now to ensure it will get done in a timely manner yet this season.
As we approach the fall months, aside from tasks related to landscape maintenance, our company increasingly receives requests for the design and installation of fireplaces and both wood and gas firepits.
Fireplaces are an emerging element of the ultimate backyard outdoor living space. These can be custom-designed and installed to meet the specific needs of the owner or the more popular option, a prefabricated modular multiple-piece fireplace. As with firepits, fireplaces can be installed with a gas fire set-up or a more traditional wood-burning set-up. In most cases, for those wanting to have the convenience of gas, a plumber will need to install a gas line from the home, so that’s something to keep in mind. Firepits can be as simple as stacking a few landscape blocks in a square or circle, or there are a multitude of options for more elaborate gas-fired pits that can take nearly any shape. Stainless steel burners come in a variety of shapes and sizes including straight-line, S-shaped, round, square and can also include water in the firepit for a unique look.
If you’re looking for a fall project, don’t wait. Contact a professional today. This time of year is extremely busy and it may take a few weeks to not only set an appointment but to get a design in place and agreed upon. But mostly have fun with the process.”
Back to the topic of irrigation in the fall and into the winter, Jeremy Hunt with Hunt Irrigation goes more in depth, advising on both establishing new landscaping and maintaining existing features.
“Fall is a great time to add or revise your landscaping,” he notes. “The weather is typically cooler and establishment is much easier. When doing so, it is important to remember that major bed renovations will also require adapting your irrigation system. Sprinkler heads that are trapped inside new or existing landscapes will reduce the coverage of turf areas, causing stress to the turf and even overwatering some plant material.
Landscaping is a major investment whether on a residential or commercial project, so consult with both your landscaper and irrigation professional. While you are updating or adding landscape beds, particularly those that border the foundation, consider irrigating them with drip irrigation. When properly installed, drip irrigation can enhance the plants’ health and ensure that your landscaping will thrive for years to come. Drip uses approximately 50% less water than aerial delivery systems, it is more precise, more controllable, and requires less weeding of landscape areas. With the drier weather Eastern Nebraska has been experiencing it is also a great way to keep the soil moist around the foundation of your home to assist in preventing foundation shift.
Fall is also a great time to have your irrigation system audited. If your irrigation system is older and has not been tuned up in at least the last two years, it is time for a check-up. Just as you perform maintenance on your car, HVAC system, or lawn mower, your irrigation system also needs a little attention from time to time. Always keep your eyes out for the obvious such as broken heads, leaky valves, squishy areas in the lawn, but also look for signs of stress or uneven watering. If there are areas of your yard that look greener than others, or you have high and low areas, consider giving your irrigation professional a call. This could be something as simple as cleaning a nozzle obstruction or it could be a sign that your irrigation system is not designed correctly. Proper water distribution (matched precipitation) is a very important part of your sprinkler system’s operation and your turf’s health.
One of the most important things to keep in mind in regards to your underground irrigation system as fall draws near is the winterization process. Whether you choose to use the gravity drain method or blow the system out with pressurized air you want to make sure you or your irrigation professional winterize the system correctly. An improper winterization can lead to expensive repairs in the spring. While it is not required on most residential systems, winterizing with pressurized air is the only way to ensure all the water has been evacuated from your system. If you blow-out your own irrigation system make sure to never exceed 70 psi.”
Aside from irrigation, Hunt highlights a few items that will add both value and aesthetic value to your home and its landscape:
Turf Management “Fall is a great time to plant just about anything. From a turf management perspective, fall is a great time for aeration and overseeding. The best seed window is from September 15th to October 15th. If you do not intend to aerate your yard in the fall then consider slit seeding or drilling the seed. Either one of these methods implants the seed in the soil and protects it from neighborhood friends like birds, squirrels, and rabbits. Seeding in the fall usually requires less water to establish the newly planted seed. Another advantage to fall over seeding is weed control. Weeds are at the end of their growing cycle.”
Plant Fruit Trees “Fruit trees should be planted in the fall or very early spring. Planting fruit trees for a fall landscaping project will be rewarding for years to come. Decide what type of tree you want to plant and make sure that it will survive in your zone and fit into your landscape once fully grown. Many fruit trees come in dwarf varieties and can be pruned to maintain a smaller size. Look for a young and healthy tree at a local nursery. Follow planting recommendations for your variety of tree.”
Outdoor Lighting “With the fall season approaching and the days becoming shorter, now is a good time to look at installing an outdoor lighting project. When you spend time outdoors with family and friends, you’ll need adequate outdoor lighting to illuminate your landscape areas. Whether you’re sitting outside on a deck or patio or you wish to place a spotlight on a specific area of your yard, outdoor lighting can create a very pleasurable and inviting space. A properly designed outdoor lighting project can add both beauty and security to any home.”
For outdoor lighting projects and the installation of many other modern outdoor living entertaining features, consulting with your electrician is advised. Then there’s also proper care and maintenance of existing features come fall and into winter to take into account as well.
Matt Collins with Oak Electric, Inc. advises, “When you prepare your exterior property features for fall and winter, don’t forget to unplug any and all water fountain pumps and store them indoors for the season – this includes pond heaters. In regard to landscape lighting, if the lights were properly installed, they can remain in place and in use year-round. I strongly recommend that you have sufficient lighting for such things as walkways, patios, stairs, and even motion lights. As the seasons change and it starts to get darker earlier, it really is a safety concern for both residential and commercial properties.
Not only does exterior and landscape lighting enhance your safety, it also enhances your curb appeal. You can get very creative with outdoor lights by either installing them in your soffits and/or on the ground and “wash” the side of your house with the lights. Before starting any electrical project, we highly encourage you to have a licensed electrician inspect your panel to ensure it is up to code.”
For many of the landscape features we’ve already covered and more, Outdoor Solutions is an excellent source for materials if you’re taking on a DIY project yet this year. Here you can an extensive selection of items for the exterior of your home, the most popular of which this time of year are fire pits, fireplaces and outdoor kitchen features like grill islands and brick ovens, landscape lighting, pavers and flagstone, outdoor furniture, and retaining wall materials. Mulch is also available in abundance, and putting down a nice thick layer will help hold moisture in the ground for your plants.
Finally, a healthy lawn is a requirement for a beautiful landscape. Just like plant beds, shrubs, and trees, staying on a watering schedule (which might need to be adjusted a bit depending on the weather) and clearing leaves and debris in a timely manner is critical. In addition, there are a few other recommendations that are specific to lawn care in the fall.
Preparing your lawn for the winter is fairly easy and not terribly time-consuming, but it is also something that is often overlooked and with detrimental results,” advises Lee Schumacher of TDK Lawn Care. “Most importantly, applying a winterizer is highly recommended to adequately support your lawn’s root system. It’s a late fall fertilizing method designed to help lawns store more food for winter survival and to encourage thick and rapid growth and rooting in the spring. A winterizer isn’t meant to encourage fall growth of grass; rather, it is the finishing touch for a good start in the spring. In fact, it’s considered the most important fertilizer of the year for northern grasses. The best time to apply a winterizer is after the grass stops growing in the fall, but while it is still green. In Nebraska, this will be sometime in late October all the way up until mid- to late November in some instances. A good rule of thumb is when you put the mower away for the year it’s time to apply winterizer to your lawn.
Aerating and overseeding in the fall will also help promote root growth. The stronger the root system, the better chance your lawn will have to withstand the harsh winter conditions in Nebraska every year. As previously mentioned, fall is a great time for planting trees too. It may seem strange, but especially after the leaves have fallen off. As with your lawn, this gives the tree a chance to grow a strong root system prior to dormancy while not being stressed out trying to create leaves.”
Speaking of leaves, and mass quantities of them in your yard to be more specific, some would just rather not have any involvement with the whole raking and bagging process. Luckily for those folks, even if that’s all the help that’s needed, there are great local companies that are happy to help. You won’t want to wait to secure their services though, as it’s quite the popular request this time of year. For any type of grounds maintenance needed in the fall, time is of the essence, and as such, our local professionals are in high demand.
There you have it, plenty of recommendations to take into consideration as you embark on your fall landscaping this year. If you find yourself needing an answer to a question or assistance with a project, any of these professionals are happy to help, just pick up the phone and ask!