Darlington Designs

Why Autumn is Important in the Landscape

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about the importance of rejuvenating lawns in the fall with turf aeration and re-seeding, but there are other important things to do in autumn. Why autumn is important to the quality of home landscapes? Specific things done in autumn are the first steps to a better landscape the following spring.

Leaf removal comes to mind as part of the care and management of home landscape. While canopy trees provide foliage that cools a home in summer, offers shade for outdoor living, once the leaves drop they collect in gutters, on lawns and in plant beds. Clearing leaves from plant beds is a matter of personal preference: consider that leaves dropping in a woodland providing composting material as a great natural mulch. In the home landscape, provided there are no pests or diseases that may harbor in them, it’s fine to just “ leave the leaves.” Most homeowners, however, prefer a tidier look, and clear the beds. With lawn, leaf cover is detrimental to turf grass and leaves must be cleared and not allowed to sit for very long or the grass will die beneath the leaf cover. Timing becomes important in that seeding and aeration needs to be complete about a month before leaves begin to drop or the tender, new grass will be compromised by raking and leaf blowers.

Leaves should also be removed from gutters to keep downspout drains clear. Clear flowing downspouts allows water to move unobstructed from the roof which can help prevent leaks. It’s a good idea to clear leaves from gutters and drains at least twice a year and should be part of your landscape management program.

In the ornamental planting areas, autumn is a great time to plant. Temperatures have moderated, rainfall is more consistent, which makes less stress on plants and allows the plants to direct energy into root growth. This allows plants to push forth better leaves and blooms in the subsequent spring.

Spring bulbs are one of the last things to do in autumn. When the temperatures get cold and stay that way, when cold is felt through the soles of regular shoes, it’s time to plant bulbs. If planted too soon, the bulbs will think its springtime and begin to emerge. The cold ground temperature will allow the bulbs to stay dormant. Tulips come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Look for large, firm bulbs without any soft spots. Tulips offer a great color in spring when we are so hungry for bright colors in the landscape. Companion planting with grape hyacinth helps deter rodents from the tulips. For best bloom, they are best treated as annuals. For spring color that returns year after, daffodils are a great choice, and many naturalize, or spread, about the planted areas.

Sometimes clients ask about what plants are appropriate for pruning at the end of the year. Perennials are best cut back around frost when their foliage and stems turn brown. Ornamental grasses can be cut back in either autumn or spring, depending on preference. Most clients prefer them cut back in fall with the final fall clean up.