Take these winter steps give hope for next year

The dry, hot summer has many lawns looking rough as we head into winter.

While it might seem easiest to throw in the towel, proclaim defeat and try again next spring, the best time to prepare your lawn to look its best next year is now.
Seeding, fertilizing and weeding in the fall help ensure healthy root development before winter hits — and let your yard thrive the following summer.

“Anything you can do in the fall will help that plant be healthier next year,” said Steve Fine, of Signature Landscapes. “You will get substantially more root development in your turf. If you wait until spring, you just won’t have time to develop that root system.”

Beginning in September, homeowners should:

  • Make sure your lawn is getting enough water. Most lawns need an inch to 11/2 inches of water each week. Place a rain gauge or straight-edged container, such as a tuna can or drinking glass, under your sprinkler to determine how long you need to water. When it has an inch to 11/2 inches of water, you know you’re done.
  • Apply fertilizer before the first frost. This will help provide your lawn with enough nutrients to survive the winter. “Fall fertilization is much more important than a spring fertilizer,” Fine said. “It can never catch up in the spring.”
  • Aerate your lawn. Aeration lets air, moisture and fertilizer travel to the roots more efficiently. “It should be aerated three or four times in different directions before you overseed,” said Tim Scott, Signature’s residential manager. “Our clay soil, which doesn’t have nearly enough air or water and doesn’t have the capacity to hold it. The key to (successful) seeding is having soil contact with the seed.”
  • Overseed your lawn when necessary. If your lawn has bare spots larger than a softball, seed those areas from early September through mid-October. Thin grass promotes weed growth. “It’s important to get seeding done in early September so that grass has plenty of time to germinate, develop a root system and establish before winter,” Scott said.
  • Kill the weeds. Apply a broadleaf weed killer in the fall to minimize weed growth in the spring. “October is a great time to get good weed control going into next year,” Fine said. “Weeds eliminated in the fall won’t come back in the spring.”
  • Continue to mow. Keep the blade at its highest setting and mow until around mid-November. Leaving the grass about 3 inches tall helps promote strong turf and reduces weed growth. Be sure to rake up leaves from your lawn quickly, so water and nutrients can penetrate the ground and reach the grass roots.

While many homeowners like to work in their yards, hiring a professional can help ensure good results. Many companies offer a free analysis of your lawn, and you can work together to come up with a plan that’s best for your situation.

“The biggest advantage with a professional is that they will have timely applications, using the correct products at the correct time and using the products correctly,” Fine said.

Extend your outdoor living this season

Nice weather this week has been a reminder that fall can be glorious in Northern Nevada. There are many great days ahead to enjoy outdoor living even when there’s a chill in the air.

The key to extending outdoor enjoyment beyond the balmy days of summer is as simple as the using the elements of fire and light.


Start a fire!

Staying warm on a chilling fall afternoon is as easy as striking a match in a wood-burning fire pit. A cozy fire brings people together, prolongs a good conversation and adds ambiance to a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. For kids and teens, it’s one more campfire and round of s’mores to enjoy.

Plus, the old-fashioned fire pit is a good way to test drive whether you want a more permanent fixture with less maintenance and no smoke. Out-of-the-box propane models can be embellished to look like custom work that matches other outdoor features in your yard. Or you can create a permanent feature encircled in stone or even a standing fireplace complete with a hearth and chimney. However you make it happen, taking the chill off the air makes the outdoors livable well into the fall.

» Learn about Signature Landscapes fire pit installations.

Turn on the lights

The sun is setting earlier and it will soon be time to turn the clocks back. Since no one likes moving around or sitting in the dark, the darkness alone chases us indoors. On the other hand, lighting up pathways and outdoor living areas keeps outdoor living areas inviting.

There are several benefits to outdoor lighting, especially LED lighting:

  • It is relatively easy to install any time of year
  • LED lighting uses minimal power
  • LED lights are low maintenance because bulb replacements are few and far between

Adding warmth and light are both strategic outdoor projects to tackle in the off-season.

Outdoor lighting also ups the safety factor around your home. If you decide more fire and light are in order, these can be fast-track fall upgrades that won’t interfere with your landscape during the growing season.

This weekend, get outside to kick through the leaves, light a fire and keep enjoying the outdoor season as long as you can.

Fall Cleanup is Coming: Leaves

Clear leaves and cut back ornamental grasses as an important first step to your fall prep.

Fallen leaves and debris from uncut ornamental grasses, perennials and flowering shrubs can smother and kill turf.

Perennials, which can have a woody stalk or stem left after the blossom fades, should be trimmed back to both promote the plant’s health and maintain a neat appearance.

And remember, bugs that love the outside during the summer usually move indoors when winter hits. They want to be cozy and warm too.

Whether you own a home or live in a managed association, taking care of leaves will keep your home looking good on the outside and bug free on the inside.

 

Why Do Leaves Turn Different Colors?

Leaves are loaded with chlorophyll, which makes them green. But all green plants also carry a set of chemicals called carotenoids. On their own, these look yellow or orange – carotenoids give color to corn and carrots, for example – but they’re invisible beneath the chlorophyllic green of a leaf for most of the year.

In the fall, when the leaves are nearing the end of their life cycle, the chlorophyll breaks down, and the yellow-orange is revealed.

“The color of a leaf is subtractive, like crayons on a piece of paper,” says David Lee, formerly of Florida International University, who has studied leaf color since 1973.

Most trees have evolved to produce a different set of chemicals, called anthocyanins, when it’s bright and cold in autumn. These have a reddish tint and are responsible for the color of a blueberry. They’re also sometimes made in newly sprouting leaves, which explains their sometimes reddish tint. Where chlorophyll and anthocyanins coexist, the color of a leaf may run to bronze, as in ash trees. At high enough concentrations, anthocyanins will make a leaf look almost purple, as in Japanese maples.

More drab autumn colors form as leaves really die and complete the breakdown of the chloroplasts. When they’re all dried out, the pigments link up together into what Lee calls a “brownish gunk.”

Have a burning horticultural question you’d like us to answer, email Steve Fine, at steve@siglands.com.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Popular Science.

 

What’s the Deal with Fall Turf Aeration?

Why does Signature Landscapes believe so strongly in lawn aeration?

After proper watering, Aerating is the single most important thing you can do for a healthy lawn. Aeration promotes root growth and reduces water usage by getting oxygen and H20 into the root zone. Aerated soil will endure drought stress, fill in bare spots faster and resist insect and disease attack too.

LEARN MORE >

Garden clean-up in fall pays off in the spring

If you’re tired of outdoor chores, it’s tempting to walk away from the garden with a plan to clean it up next spring. But if you want a great veggie garden next year, you’ll be wise to take advantage of this warm weekend by doing some fall clean-up.

Why can’t you just wait until spring? Leaving leaves and debris in the garden gives diseases, fungus and pests a nice place overwinter and come back with a vengeance next spring. A garden that goes to sleep all cleaned up for the winter will wake up healthier in the springtime. There will also be less need to treat for pests and disease.

Need help with fall landscape chores? Contacting a landscape clean up pros at Signature Landscapes is as easy as clicking on our service request form, or calling (775) 857-4333.

Take these steps before you begin the clean-up:

  • Harvest root crops like carrots or potatoes that are still in the ground.
  • Make a sketch of this year’s garden, before removing any plant debris, that shows what was planted where. Having a sketch of this year’s garden will help you rotate placement of next season’s crops – like tomatoes – that do best when not grown in the same place each year.
  • Plant herbs, that will not overwinter outdoors, in containers to bring inside.

Tips for the clean-up

  • Remove all old veggies, vines, leaves and other debris from the garden. If leaves from trees blow in, keep them cleaned up as well. All of this decaying plant material makes a nice winter home for insects and disease.
  • Remove the weeds, too.
  • Most greens, leaves and small plants are fine to pitch in the compost pile. But leave out the weeds whose seeds will get back in the garden when you spread the compost. Also leave out tomato plants as they often carry disease, and large-stemmed vines such as pumpkin as they take too long to decompose.

When the garden is clean, do one last chore that will pay off next spring: work compost into the soil. You can also add straw mulch or grass clippings as mulch on top. Now your garden is nicely tucked in for its long winter’s nap.