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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Water Cooler: Prepare your yard for the season ahead

Fall chores include draining and storing garden hoses to protect them from the elements during winter.  (Pixabay)

Fall just started, but it won’t be long before those leaves hit the ground. Get a head start on preparing your yard to ensure its health and ease of maintenance for later this fall and into winter.

Test the soil

Fall is a great time to nourish your lawn and garden, but it will save you time and trouble if you put in the work to test the soil first. This gives you a more accurate picture of your soil health, enabling you to make amendments now before lacking nutrients affect your lawn come spring.

Fertilize the soil

Once you’ve tested the soil and figured out which nutrients your soil needs, proceed with fertilizing. Opting for an organic fertilizer helps improve the quality of the soil now and overtime. It also prevents leaching of chemicals and excess nutrients into the groundwater and removes worries about children and pets coming in contact with synthetic fertilizer.

Overseed thin lawns

The cool and mild weather conditions of fall are ideal for germinating grass seed. If you want a thick and luscious lawn, don’t wait any longer to overseed. It is best to try to overseed at least 40 days before the first frost. If you’re in Spokane or the surrounding areas, you certainly don’t have that much time left before the first frost but you can always speed up germination by soaking the grass seed in water indoors for a few days. Worst case, you can always wait for spring.

Keep watering

Even though the leaves are soon to fall, your grass is still active and growing. Keep watering, especially if you’re trying to germinate seeds, to help the lawn bounce back from summer stress before it goes dormant for the winter.

Keep mowing

Continue regular mowing, leaving fresh grass clippings and fall leaves to become free nutrients for the soil. Once winter gets closer, mow a bit shorter than usual in order to combat winter fungal disease when the grass becomes covered with snow.

Remove excess thatch

Grass clippings and leaf mulch are great sources of free nutrients for the soil, but they can build up over time. If the thatch becomes more than one-half of an inch thick, it can smother the grass and encourage disease. Use a rake to remove thick layers of thatch, especially before overseeding.

Keep weeding

Although the biggest fight with weeds is in spring or summer, finishing them off during the fall will help set you up for an easier warm season next year. Getting weeds out of the lawn also creates less competition for nutrients and water which will make your grass more resilient and healthy and set it up for success during dormancy.

Clean up excess leaves

A thin layer of mulched leaves is great for the grass, but if you go too heavy-handed, the leaves will suffocate the grass and soil and make it much more prone to disease in wet conditions. Dispose of or compost excess leaves.

Deadhead plants

Most deadheading occurs in late summer, but it is also good to continue deadheading into the fall. This will help the plant store up energy for overwintering rather than exerting that energy by subsisting flowers and going to seed.

Drain and store garden hoses

Before it gets too cold, don’t forget to drain the water from hoses and store them somewhere they’ll be protected from the elements during winter. Frozen water hoses tend to develop splits and cracks. Proper storage will keep them in good condition for much longer. You can use an air compressor to blast out excess water or drain them by stretching them out on a slope.