Fall is officially here and some of us are wondering what to do about the yard and garden to get them ready for winter and prep them for spring. Christa Carignan, is coordinator for Digital Horticulture Education at the University of Maryland Extension in Anne Arundel County. She offers localized tips, some even of a legal nature, on how you can best prepare your property right now.
Fertilize now or risk the consequences! No, there are no cow-poop cops, but there is a law on record that local residents can only fertilize their lawns up until November 15. And its just a good time to fertilize, according to Carignan" "Right now is the ideal time to do fall lawn care--aerate, overseed and fertilize," she said "The lawn is going to be growing when the weather is cooler." She said now until early October is the sweet spot for lawn care. Because of another law specific to our area, lawn maintenance fertilizer only carries nitrogen, not phosphorous. The law is designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay from toxic runoff.
Don't cut those flower heads and stalks! "We encourage people to not cut down flowers," Carignan said. "A lot of birds feed on seeds and bees nest in them. We encourage people to leave up the plants stalks in winter." She acknowledged that old advice was to tidy up in fall. But insect populations, which use the plant material to overwinter, have declined dramatically in recent years due to pesticides and habitat loss. They need all the help they can get.
Plant again now and then plant a cover crop in your gardens: "There's still time to plant garlic and leafy greens and lettuces," Carignan said. Once you're done harvesting a cover crop can offer nutrient replenishment to your soil as well as erosion control. She suggested crimson clover, oats, or winter rye for our area. Crimson clover is very easy she noted, while oats may take a bit of work to remove when it's time to replant your garden in spring.
Leave the Leaves: Leaves are fertilizer and they also provide material for some butterflies to winter over in. "Leaves are fertilizer," she said. "If people are blowing them away, and buying fertilizer, it doesn't make sense." If you're not going to use the free fertilizer, you shouldn't leave them spread out all over your lawn. Instead rake them under a tree or in a .pile on the side of your house, she suggested.
Fall is a good time to also plant plants and shrubs: Because of the temps, now is a good time to plant shrubs and trees. Carignan also encourages those with troubled lawns to try replacing them with perennial natives that support wildlife.
And there's more!: For a multitude of tips for area specific to September you can go to this Extension page.