Life Style

The Fall Yard Cleanup Tasks You Should Tackle in September

Fall is majestic. Don’t get me wrong, I live in anticipation of summer and the growing season, but fall is the season that never lets me down. In the Pacific Northwest, where I live, fall is marked by a different smell in the air, a return of cloud cover, and pops of color from the pumpkins turning orange on the vine. These are all signals it’s time to really swing into gear with the fall outdoor cleanup. Here’s what to tackle this month...READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶▶▶

Save (or sacrifice) the sunflowers

The sunflowers that have been towering over everything in your yard should be ready to harvest, provided that’s what you choose to do with them. If you like the seeds, it’s worth it to get to them before the squirrels and birds do. If there’s a specimen you particularly like, grab enough seeds to replant next year—but remember, if you don’t save the seeds yourself, the squirrels and birds will do you a favor by spreading them around for you, so next year, flowers will pop up on their own.

Sunflowers are not inexpensive seeds, so I like to harvest the immense Russian sunflower heads that produce twenty foot tall sunflowers, as well as the Teddy Bear varieties. To save these seeds, cut off the head and bring them in to dry in front of a fan. Make sure you brush off the yellow flowers and remove off as much green as you can, because those parts will get moldy before the seeds dry. Once they have, pluck out the seeds and save them for next year. (If you prefer to eat them, roast them on the lowest setting in your oven for an hour.)

Take down your shelling beans

You need to be judicious when deciding when to take down your shelling beans. You want to wait long enough to harvest as many beans as possible and allow them beans to dry out, but get them down before wetter fall weather might cause them to mold. If your beans aren’t totally dry after harvesting, lay them flat in front of a fan, in the pod.

Taking the trellises down each year is a bear, but leaving them up all winter can cause then to wear out faster (and blow around if your area is prone to windstorms). Before you put the trellises away, be sure to clean them off of any vines and leaves and then spray them with a bleach solution, as many plant viruses can overwinter.

It’s time to seed your lawn and ground cover

Depending on where in the country you live, fall can be the best time to get overseed your existing lawn or tackle seeding a new lawn, as the lower temps will be kinder to your seed and you’ll soon benefit from additional rainfall. Consider not just seeding your lawn, but your ground cover and clovers as well.

Red clover is great annual seed for overwintering, as it will stop soil erosion over the winter and make help hold down the mud in bare areas, but will be spent by the time spring rolls around—at which point you can mow it down (the soil will benefit from the nitrogen in the clover).

More rain means easier germination of fall seedlings

The rain makes easier work for outdoor carrot, beet, and onion germination. I constantly struggle with my carrots—they require constant moisture in the germination stage, so if you don’t have rain yet, wait for it to come. They’ll sprout then.

Get serious about tree pruning

Your stone fruit pruning should be done by now, so if you have pears, plums or peaches and haven’t gotten to it, the time is nigh. Now is when I shift every year into taking care of my ornamental trees. I want to ensure that I get rid of any scrub branches within a height I can reach—meaning branches that cross another branch, or branches that aim towards the center of the tree.

Opening up your trees means that more air can circulate, leading to healthier trees. Next, I work on any branches that I think could get taken down by heavy snow, particularly those that overhang the street or are near power or cable lines. The closer you are to tree dormancy, the better, so early September might be too early, depending on your climate, but by late September I’m in full swing.

The two tools that I find most useful here are the Ryobi One+ chainsaw and pole saw. A chainsaw on an extension pole is the best pruning hack ever, and using one is less scary than you’d expect. All that wood can be saved and used for firewood after it seasons, or turned into natural fencing, which is what I do with it.

Take down the berry canes

Lastly, I begin the onerous task of pruning the rest of my berry canes. The blackberries and boysenberries are spent at this point, and so I begin patrolling the base of the canes, looking for and removing deadwood and leaving the green wood, which is what will fruit next spring.

Don’t leave yard waste lying around

During this time of year, I keep popup garden waste bins in all the corners of the garden. I find myself constantly yanking weeds or plants and it invariably ends up in my garden paths if I don’t have a place for it. In fall, my green bin becomes quickly overwhelmed, so these pop ups also provide a place to hold garden waste until I can refill the bin.

Composting and mulching are always ongoing. I clear any crops, I make sure to backfill and topdress with compost, and then give everything a hefty mulch, giving the trunks or stems of my plants some breathing room. This will serve as a winter snack and warm blanket for the months ahead.

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