Ready, set, rake: helpful fall gardening and lawn tips

Fall leaves with rakeRaking it in. Over the next month or so, the typical suburban lawn will be covered with a thick blanket of leaves. It’s best to wait until all the leaves have fallen before attacking your property for one big massive cleanup. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed looking at all those leafy wonders scattered around, so try to tackle your lawn with the divide-and-conquer approach:

Have a plan of attack. Rake your lawn in segments, one day at a time. Or be a job creator and hire your kids or some neighborhood kids to help you out. Just make time for some pile-jumping. Enjoy your leaf-exterminating experience!

Yard fashion. Wear long sleeves, long pants and sturdy work shoes. Gardening gloves are a great idea for those of us with delicate office-worker hands. Check your bod for ticks when you go inside.

Use a wide, plastic, light-weight leaf rake, and gather as many leaves as you can at a time onto a standard-sized tarp, usually 6’x8’. Look for rot-friendly spots away from your home or trees where you can dump leaves, garden trimmings, and kitchen waste (eggshells, coffee grinds, shredded paper are cool; animal or dairy products, diseased plants, toxic weeds or mature weed seeds, or peanut butter are not) to compost out of sight. If you’re a city person with a small, more manageable lot, bag your leaves up in paper leaf/mulch bags and put them out on curb to be collected and recycled on city-wide garden waste days.

Compost = gardener’s gold. It takes a little over a year for those piles of leaves and other leafy materials you dumped in the woods to flatten out into a foot-high mass of rich leaf compost or leaf mold. If you don’t have too many pine needles or acidic-rich oak leaves in the pile, you can use this nutrient-rich stuff for garden mulch around trees and shrubs. It’s cheaper and better for your landscaping than that smelly dyed pine bark mulch.

Hate raking? Hire landscapers to blow your leaves into the woods (or have them take them away if you’re on a smaller lot). Or consider mowing them into tiny bits and leaving them to compost on your lawn. Another idea: splurge on a mulching mower, which works better than a regular grass-cutting mower on leaves. Save branches for kindling in those roaring winter fires.

The grass is always greener… Drier, sunnier fall months are the perfect time to fertilize and seed your lawn. You can rent or borrow an aerator to seed with a mix that’s at least half fine fescues and bluegrasses, the ideal blend for Southern New England yawns. Better yet, consider downsizing the size of your lawn and switching things up with more native plants and vegetables that don’t require as much water, chemicals or back-breaking labor. Click here to read our post about 21th century lawns.

Cut it out. Prune tomatoes, deadhead flowering plants, and remove dead and dying plants from your garden beds and throw them on your compost heap.

Rake out your beds and clear out the clutter before snow falls.

Clean it up. Cover your grill (if you don’t use it year round); cover or store your garden furniture; roll up and store garden hoses off the ground; and drain and turn off outside water spigots. If you have an automatic irrigation system, turn it off now before you forget. It’s also time to replace the screens on your storm doors (and windows if applicable) with glass to buffer freezing winter winds.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.