As all homeowners are well aware, caring for your property is a never-ending, year-long endeavor. Just as in the spring and summer, there is a maintenance checklist that should be done in the fall to ensure that your lawn, landscaping, entertaining spaces and exterior features of your home are protected and set up for success once spring rolls back around next year.
Pretty much any project can be done during the regular growing season can be done in the fall. However, there are projects that are best suited for late summer and fall. “Renovating your lawn can be done at any time during the season, but fall is the optimal time,” says Ken Svoboda, owner of Ray’s Lawn Care. “The soil is still warm, the rains are a bit more frequent, the sun does not have the scorching effect it does in July and August, and finally you’re not competing with heavy weed growth and turf feeding insects. The same holds true for landscape projects. You will generally receive a better value on your landscape material in the fall as growers and retailers are offering end of season discounts. You’re also getting a full year’s worth of growth for the cost of the plant when calibrated in the early spring.”
As for current trends that can still be incorporated in the fall, Svoboda explains, “Outdoor living spaces are still the rage. Anything that enhances the outdoor experience or extends the outdoor season is in demand. Manufactures have developed components that include outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, pizza ovens and food storage space that are pre-cut for easy assembly and sometimes pre-fabricated so that they simply drop in place as a kitchen in the home would do.
Fire pits this time of year are extremely popular, especially gas fired pits. The instant on, instant off capability is well suited for the active family. Though some of my customers still prefer the traditional wood burning pit, the time it takes to get a good fire started and the liability of potential damage from blowing embers far outweighs the cost of installing a gas line to the pit as a safer method.”
He adds, “Landscaping isn’t something to fear or dread. I help many clients design and install their own landscape quite often. Most homeowners take great pride in their homes and their properties. Along with the feeling of accomplishment comes a sense of fulfilment and even a touch of therapy while working outdoors.
Preparing your living landscape for winter is extremely important. Making sure the root system is adequately covered is key to the long term health of the plant. Where most homeowners fail is in providing enough water to the plants root ball going into winter. Just because there are no leaves on the plant doesn’t mean the plant is fully dormant. Evergreens, both broadleaf and needle, need plenty of water going into winter. As long as the ground isn’t frozen solid and still accepts the moisture without running off you should maintain regular watering.
If you’re considering a fall landscape project and need the assistance of a professional, don’t wait any longer. Good landscapers are very busy in the fall and the chances of getting a late season project started yet this year may be winding down. However, that doesn’t mean you should not make contact with the professional now. Some work may be able to begin this year and complete the project in the spring. If we have a nice long fall, then you’re ahead of the game. Ray’s Lawn & Home Care is a full service lawn care provider as well as a complete landscape firm. Our imagination for a landscape project at your home is only limited by your budget and you’d be surprised how much imagination you get for your dollar at Ray’s. We offer free, no-obligation estimates which in many cases include a scaled full size drawing and itemized quote. Ray’s Lawn & Home Care has been serving the Lincoln and southeast Nebraska market for nearly forty-nine years and the testimonials from our many satisfied customers are a tribute to the hard work and dedication instilled in the second generation ownership from Ray himself.”
Lee Schumacher of TDK Lawn Care agrees that supporting the root growth of your lawn during the fall is paramount to ensuring the return of a healthy lawn in the spring. “Make sure that you prepare your lawn for winter so that it not only survives, but thrives next season. This includes clearing all debris, especially leaves, and to apply a winterizer. A winterizer is a late fall fertilizing 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; it is the finishing touch for a good start in the spring. Early fall fertilizing, which can still be done in October too, is widely 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. Basically, when you put the mower away for the year, apply winterizer to your lawn too.
Aerating and overseeding is also a good idea. This will 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. Also, fall is a great time for planting trees—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. 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.”
Aside from your lawn, there are plenty of aspects of your landscape that can be taken care of in the fall months. This includes preparing all of the plants in your existing landscape for winter and even establishing new plants in some instances. “Fall is the perfect time for landscaping, the hot summer temperatures have dropped down which means it is time to apply a nice layer of topsoil to reseed weak spots in your lawn and to get a nice layer of mulch down to protect your plants from winter kill,” adds Brent Van Winkle of Outdoor Solutions. “Fall is a good time to plant perennials and shrubs, lower temperatures and adequate moisture ensure good establishment of these plants. It is also a great time to install hardscaping such as a patio or retaining wall without having to work in the hot temperatures.
Fire pits and fireplaces are perfect for the fall. People are trying to extend their homes outward and their season outside. On those chilly fall evenings there is nothing better than enjoying a warm fire with friends and family. Wood burning fire pits and fireplaces give you that rustic feel and sound of a having a nice crackling fire, while newer alternatives such as gas burners provide the convenience of instantly starting and putting out the fire.
Fall can be a very enjoyable season to get many projects done in, however in Nebraska it can also be a fairly short season. Cold temperatures will be sweeping in soon which can be undesirable to work in. Keep your eye on the extended forecast to ensure nice working conditions.”
Never underestimate what can still be done to the landscape or hardscape of your property in the fall. In fact, as long as the ground is not frozen, you may find that you can get on a contractors schedule much faster than in the spring. If a mild winter occurs, you may find that projects can be completed all the way up to December. Decks in particular are nice to do in the fall, as you can then let the new lumber season and seal it the following year.
Another great way to expand and maximize the living space in your home is to add a sunroom. Terri Rediger, owner of Malibu Sunrooms, explains, “If you have not been in a sunroom, I think it’s impossible to really understand what you are missing. People LOVE their sunroom. It’s everyone’s favorite room in the house. You ‘feel’ like you are outside, but can enjoy the comforts of being inside. When there’s a snowstorm, it is SO COOL being in a sunroom–like living in a snow globe. And really, no matter what the weather is doing, the weather is always great in a Malibu Sunroom!”
Rediger also emphasizes that there are many outdoor projects that should be completed in the fall as this is the optimal time to do so. “Replacing or repairing doors and windows in your house is especially important when facing the harsh winters we get in Nebraska and Iowa. Broken seals, air infiltration and poor weather stripping can affect both your energy bill and your comfort in the winter. Adding ice and water shield to your roof is also a very important aspect of maintaining your home. About six years ago, building codes changed and an ice and water shield are now required on roofs. However, this was not always the case and there are many roofs out there today without this important element. Ice and water shield creates a barrier between your shingles and your roof decking. Without it, ice builds up and pushes itself under the shingles, which then can leak into your house. Ice and water shield is a secondary defense against leaks.”
She adds, “When considering the importance of year round curb appeal, seasonal upkeep is just a part of being a homeowner. When our homes are well cared for, our property values go up. A lot of times, it’s not just for our own property–it’s also for the good of the neighborhood. Curb appeal is always important when it comes to selling and buying homes. When buyers can ‘see’ continued maintenance and care, it strikes a chord that indicates there are no problems or issues with the home. Now, there is upkeep, and then there’s the ‘WOW factor’. Landscaping, beautiful decks or concrete and water features add tremendous appeal to your home. Sunrooms not only add beauty to your home, but also additional finished square feet! I haven’t met one person who was sorry they added a sunroom. Who wouldn’t want to feel like they are outside all year long? And aside from adding a stylish look outside of your home, a sunroom adds class, sunshine and architectural appeal from the INSIDE of your home. Most people who own a sunroom will tell you that they literally ‘live’ in their room. No other room in the house gets used as much as a sunroom. The ‘feeling of the outdoors’ in any season or weather is what gets them.
The additional living space–a place to have Thanksgiving dinner, a space to relax, to watch TV, to read a book, to play with grandchildren, to open Christmas presents or to watch the wildlife that takes place in your own backyard—is well worth the cost. As far as adding value to your home, there is no question that a sunroom fits the bill. But adding value to your life and your lifestyle, well I don’t think there’s a price you can put on that.”
Adding square feet to your home by way of outdoor living space enhances its value and your enjoyment. There are many ways homeowners can improve or add interest to these areas to make them comfortable and inviting. Many of these involve durable brick, stone and paver products. Yankee Hill Brick offers a wide range of colors, sizes and textures of clay brick and pavers to fit any residential project, and all of their products are manufactured with the highest quality standards.
While decks and sunrooms are crafted specifically to handle the elements, some of your outdoor furniture and decorations may not be made with the same considerations in mind. Remember, the combination of desiccant winds and freezing temperatures can wreak havoc upon not only the living elements of the garden but the structures as well. Some of the plastics that are produced can become quite brittle in the winter and might be brought inside until the temperatures rise again. If you’re looking for outdoor furniture that can be left outside year round, Precast Products offers furniture that is made to withstand extreme climates and temperature changes! Sue Crawford of Precast Products explains that their outdoor furniture is made of recycled High Density Polyethylene, or recycled plastic milk and water jugs, and will not break down or become brittle from the sun or cold. Additionally, their Maintenance-Free Outdoor Furniture is backed by a 35-year guarantee to never crack, break, rot, or peel and is proudly manufactured in the U.S.A. Also, fall is a good time to replace any questionable retaining walls or to construct them in areas that may erode due to exposure in the winter months. VERSA-LOK products are perfect for this, and are guaranteed to hold up no matter what Mother Nature sends our way.
Larry Epp, General Manager of Yankee Hill Brick, cautions, “For outdoor living spaces, make sure to choose your materials carefully. Pay attention to the quality and durability of the materials, and if you are in doubt, make sure to ask plenty of questions.
Many times outdoor projects are a work in progress, and the current or following homeowners will likely want to add to them in the future. With products such as stone, brick, or pavers, it can be difficult to find a match later on if the product isn’t commonly used or is a rare find. I highly recommend purchasing materials from an established company so that you will continue to have access to the same items in the future.
While there are tons of options, if you want the best value with the lowest maintenance a paver patio is the way to go. By using pavers, you will save money and time by not having to stain and seal it year after year. Our products withstand the test of time and the elements, looking beautiful year after year with very minimal upkeep or repair, if any at all. There are so many ways that brick and paver products can be incorporated into the landscaping and hardscaping of a home that the hardest part of the process is deciding exactly what you want!”
Andrew Campbell of Campbell’s Nursery also offers some landscaping projects that are best done in the next couple of months:
“Fall is a great time to accomplish many tasks in the landscape. Two that come to mind are fall maintenance preparing for winter and fall planting. Fall maintenance of beds includes raking leaves, light trimming of shrubs, cutting back of perennials except ornamental grasses that can offer winter interest, and possibly thickening mulch. By getting things cleaned up you reduce the work next spring, but this also gives your property a better appearance through the winter. Wait until we get a good freeze to cut back your perennials, but other tasks can happen as a homeowner has time. Fall planting could include any of the perennials, shrubs, trees or spring flowering bulbs. While some homeowners may not enjoy planting when temperatures start getting colder, generally perennials can be planted deep into November, shrubs through November possibly into December, and shade and flowering trees until the ground freezes solid in December. Evergreens can also be planted late into the fall but try to avoid it once it gets too cold. Evergreen branches can get brittle when cold. We also love to plant in the fall to fill in gaps or to continue phasing of planting on projects because plants installed now will have additional time to settle into place and grow a bit before next summer’s heat. This way, the plants can begin growing as soon as Mother Nature warms temperatures in the spring.
Two of the trends I like for fall are actually ones we have seen used for years: spring flowering bulbs and installing fall plants in annual pots or beds. So many clients love the look of spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils and such in the spring, but many don’t realize the bulbs have to be installed in the fall. Whether it is a small area or large expanses in beds, spring flowering bulbs can be an easy project and will offer so much interest and color once spring arrives–normally before plants are showing interest in the landscape. Installing new plants in annual pots and beds can also be an easy project. Whether it is Mums, Aster, Kale or Pansies to name a few, or non-plant items like cut branches and evergreen boughs, switching out your tender summer annuals to fall items can offer beauty and enjoyment possibly until winter truly arrives. Plants like the Mums, Asters, etc. are more suited to cool to cold temps compared to summer annuals, and it’s pretty hard not to love the color and interest they offer as other plants fade with fall weather.
For those who are starting out and are new to landscaping, we find a lot of people think that they can’t plant after September. While there are some exceptions, and some homeowners don’t prefer to be out in colder weather planting, most perennials can be planted into late October or early November, shrubs possibly into December, and shade and flowering trees until the ground freezes. For many the cooler temps are actually more preferable to work in, and the plants can actually benefit from being planted this fall. Having time to settle in and grow a bit can reduce the stress of the heat next summer and the plants can start growing as soon as weather warms in the spring. In many cases we may see less replacement on fall plantings compared to summer or even spring. Basically, there is still plenty of time to plant this fall!”
Kristin Hain of Land Escapes agrees that fall focus in the landscape should be on cleaning up landscape beds and preparing them for winter. She advises, “This includes raking up leaves, removing foliage from perennials such as Peonies, Iris, Daylilies, and others. If you have a vegetable garden, it’s important to remove plants from the summer such as tomatoes, cucumber, squash, etc. These can harbor diseases that will remain in the soil for winter, so be sure to remove all vegetation as well as old fruit/veggies that have fallen to the ground. Fall is also a great time to add compost to vegetable or landscape beds and apply a fresh layer of wood mulch to help insulate plants for the winter. Ornamental grasses and roses should be left up for the winter and get cut back in the spring along with spring blooming shrubs such as Lilac’s, Forsythia, etc. Don’t trim any of those now or you’ll be cutting off the flower buds for next year. Fall is also a great time of year to re-evaluate your landscape! What did you like and not like about it this year? Make notes of those things and if you want to make some changes, fall is a great time to schedule a landscaping company to come out and look at your property, then create new plans over the winter for changes to put into action in the spring.”
As for other fall maintenance, clean up landscape beds, add wood mulch as needed for insulation, and be sure to unhook any hoses from outdoor faucets and have your irrigation system blown out to prevent freezing and broken pipes. I encourage my clients to be careful with any planting that they are considering–I’ve personally seen more winter kill on plants that were planted after October 1st than any other time during the summer. The earlier new plants can get into the ground and start to develop a root system, the better. Contrary to many other industry professionals, I recommend holding off on much new planting until spring, especially with perennials, roses and shrubs. Most trees can be planted into mid-October safely. Better safe than sorry has always been my approach.”
“Land Escapes does a lot of fall decorating for people which is unique compared to other companies,” she continues. “We deliver and set up fall displays using straw bales, cornstalks, flowering Kale, Mums and a unique variety of pumpkins, gourds and squash. It’s a really fun time of year to add color to the gardens, entries or patios with these displays and is a great bridge between summer flowers and holiday lights. I don’t know of other companies who offer this service so it’s pretty unique to us and we love it! As with everything we do, it’s not your average Joe orange pumpkin….we use the fun and funky, warty, grey, black, white and Cinderella types. Anything unusual is what we’re about! The ornamental Kale and cabbages are also becoming popular either planted in landscape beds, containers or simply set in pots amongst our pumpkin displays. And everyone loves Mums…we have many colors available for special order while supplies last.
Start thinking ahead now to the holiday decorating season. We offer interior and exterior holiday decorating including hanging lights, wreaths, garlands, fresh greenery containers for outdoors, etc. We’re already scheduling for this season now so don’t wait until Dec. 1st to request holiday decorating from any company offering that service. It’s something to be planning for and get scheduled now!”
Along with holiday lighting, with the fall season approaching and the days becoming shorter, now is also 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.
There is a variety of lighting styles to choose from such as up lighting, path lighting, and down lighting. Hunt Irrigation can assist you in designing and selecting the perfect lighting effects for your outdoor lighting project. It’s important to consider what you need and how you will use the lighting to ensure that you choose lighting with the features you need. With many benefits of functional outdoor lighting, finding the lighting style and fixtures that will add beauty, function and safety to your outdoor areas is easy with The Hunt Irrigation crew.
Jeremy Hunt, owner of Hunt Irrigation, explains some of the benefits of outdoor lighting:
Safety Outdoor lighting can add safety in a variety of ways. Illuminate walkways to ensure that people navigate these areas safely. Use zone lighting to add light to areas of your yard and landscape for nighttime use. Zone lighting can be effective for lighting a patio, deck, garden, pool area or outdoor seating area. Illuminate sidewalks, driveways, garages and entryways to keep your landscape safe after dark. The more lights, the safer your outdoor areas will be.
Comfort Extend your living areas by lighting your outdoor landscape. If you have a deck or patio with seating, add comfortable and attractive lighting to enable you to use these areas after dark. The ambiance of outdoor seating can be pleasant and inviting, especially when you feature attractive outdoor lighting that adds to your outdoor decor.
Décor Showcase and highlight specific areas of your landscape with decorative lighting. By installing up lighting around your landscape in various spots, you pull the eye to these areas and display them attractively. Landscape lighting is also an effective way to display planting areas or flower gardens. Install mood lighting along outdoor buildings to add pleasant splashes of light in your landscape. You can even add low-voltage exterior lights to trees and shrubs outdoors to illuminate planting areas and add beautiful accents to your exterior areas.
Curb Appeal A well-lit home gives a maintained impression to the entire neighborhood. Your house will appear warm and inviting as it sits quietly on your property. In contrast to a dark and drab home, your illuminated home will draw people in and offer a warm refuge for family and friends.
Regardless of the purpose of your outdoor lighting, the benefits are all positive. From increasing safety and security to creating a warm and inviting environment, adding outdoor lighting will enhance and beautify your home.
21st Century There have been some great advancements in outdoor lighting over the past few years. LED technology allows for 30 percent less power consumption and some lighting transformers now come with Bluetooth technology and apps for both android and apple IOSs putting the control of your new lighting system at your fingertips. Bring your landscape or backyard to life. Contact our office today for a lighting consultation. You can reach us at 402.438.8151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunt adds, “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 to your car, furnace/AC or your 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 as 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.”
Hunt also offers a few more suggestions on general projects and procedures that are best performed in the fall:
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 over seeding. 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, as weeds are at the end of their growing cycle.
Plant Trees Trees should be planted in the fall or very early spring. Especially in the case of planting fruit trees for a fall landscaping project, doing so 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.
Winterizing 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 winterizes 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.
When it comes to clearing your property of all debris prior to winter, don’t forget about the gutters! “As the weather turns cooler, the projects we take on at Abc Seamless take a bit of a shift as well. The falling leaves are a challenge for many homeowners, not just from the standpoint of yard maintenance but also for maintenance of their gutters,” Oak Williams, owner of Abc Seamless of Lincoln, points out. “Leaves, seeds, sticks or anything else that can fall from a tree can potentially end up in your gutters, which results in clogging that can really cause problems. For some it is merely a fall ritual to get up on the roof and clean out the gutters by hand. Others call us, mainly for reasons such as safety, convenience, and the reassurance that the job has been done by a professional. We also offer a fantastic gutter protection system called Rhino that will prevent gutter cleaning forever. It is a wonderful product that attaches to the top of your gutter and literally keeps everything out! We have been very pleased with this products performance over the last several years and so have our customers. The work that this product can save you is well worth the investment.”
“The other projects that a lot of homeowners focus on in the fall involve repair or replacement of windows,” he further explains. “A chill in the air becomes very evident if you have leaky, drafty windows. An energy efficient window will not only save you on energy costs but also adds to the overall aesthetics and value of your home. We deal with a window company called SoftLite that offers some of the best windows in the industry. No matter what the configuration of window, no matter the size or color, we can put together a window to suit your needs and your budget. There is no better way to enjoy the fall air than to open up your windows. We get phone calls from customers all the time whose windows are so old that they don’t even open. We take great pride in helping our customers invest in their homes and make changes that improve their quality of life.”
He adds, “And as always, Abc Seamless continues with our signature product offerings as well–our steel gutters and siding projects continue into the winter without a hitch.”
When the weather starts to get cold, it is also a good time to consider interior and exterior pest control services for unwanted visitors such as spiders, crickets, ants and mice. Jason Anderson, owner of Arrow Pest Control, explains, “Fall is the time when many pests who typically want to be outdoors are looking for warmth and shelter. Some visible signs of potential pest problems are an increase in spider webs around windows, eaves, bushes and other landscaping or mice droppings in garages, under stoves and in storage areas. An Arrow Pest Control professional can help prevent these issues by doing a thorough inspection around the perimeter of your home looking for any cracks, crevices, or holes where they may enter your home. They will also look for branches extending to your home which gives pests an opportunity to gain entry. If these insects have already gained entrance, an Arrow Pest Control Professional will use a low odor safe insecticide to control them.”
Consider following these household tips to help prevent a pest control problem:
• Inspect your home’s exterior for entry points. Seal all cracks, crevices and holes in the foundation. Also caulk all windows and weather-strip all doors. Install screens over windows and attic vents.
• Clear away buildups of leaves and grass clippings that could attract pests, particularly around your home’s foundation.
• Trim back tree and shrub branches touching your home’s walls and foundations as these can provide easy access entry points for rodents and insects.
You just never know what the weather has in store for us each year, but as it stands now, there is still plenty of time to get some fall landscaping projects accomplished. It’s a good idea to reach out to local professionals for all of your fall landscaping needs and inquiries yet this month—don’t miss out on taking the necessary steps to keep your property in tip-top condition!