Leaves are assets to your lawn. Not one should leave your property.
However, matted leaves rob the grass of the sunlight it needs as it continues to grow through fall.
Grass will continue to grow as long as the soil remains warm, which in our region is at least through November.
As long as you can still see the grass blades through the fallen leaves, you can shred them with a mower, and leave them on the lawn to decompose into nutrients.
To crumble, they must be mowed when dry.
If, or when, the leaf layer is such that you can see just a little of the grass, mow, rake up the mess, spread it over annual beds and the kitchen garden, and work it into the top 6 inches; that is next spring’s supply of humus.
When the leaf layer is about 4 inches deep, suck the leaves up in a blower-vacuum, and blow the residue over the surrounding lawn.
Or, bag the ground leaves, and store them to use next spring as mulch. If the leaves get deeper than 4 inches, gather them into leaf bags, and put them on your compost pile.
Week One
• Many other annuals can re-seed themselves if you allow the stalks to stay in place for the winter as you would New Guinea Impatiens.
I have had success with Snapdragons, marigolds, and Dianthus. Remember to also sprinkle some lime around the area where the plants were to raise the pH, and apply Flower-tone to provide adequate feeding now and for early spring.
• When harvesting your fruit trees, dispose of all rotten and unused fruit. Doing this will help avoid any over-wintering diseases and keep insect problems from occurring. Do the same with any fallen grapes, making sure none are left on the vines.
Week Two
• Leave caladium, tuberous begonias, cannas, and dahlias in the garden until subjected to several frosts. Spade them up in late November for winter storage, remembering the temperature needs of each type of bulb. Caladiums require temperatures above 70 degrees, tuberous begonias require 35-40 degrees; cannas 40-50 degrees and dahlia require 35-45 degrees. Store in peat moss in a dry and dark location, and be sure to label colors.
• After the last roses bloom, spread bone meal over the soil and soak in. A lot of rose guides suggest pruning now; but I believe it is better to wait until March to prune back any rose. Do this before spraying dormant oil/lime sulfur spray. This will discourage any overwintering insects from taking up home near the garden.
Week Three
• Rake leaves and needles up from the lawn. Mow a little lower and bag up all clippings. The micro-organisms that decay grass clippings become dormant when the soil temperatures drop below 53 degrees.
• Fall is the ideal time for dividing and moving most perennials, to make more space for annuals, or plan to combine annuals and perennials together for next year.
Making changes to the shapes and sizes of existing beds, allowing for trees that have grown, and seeing how the bed is affected by sun and shade, makes planning for next year a whole lot easier.
Week Four
• June bearing strawberry plants start to manufacture flower buds for fruit next season. Water weekly if no rain is forecast until Thanksgiving to achieve optimum bud production, which means more fruit next year!
• This is the best time to check the soil pH around azaleas and make necessary adjustments using soil acidifier to lower to 4.5-5.5. Plants, including azaleas, can only extract food from the soil only when the pH is in the correct range.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)