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Leaves are falling . . . Autumn is calling.

Leaves are falling . . . Autumn is calling.

Autumn is heralded by the exhilaration of falling temperatures and the dazzling hues of falling leaves. The air is cool and the colors are warm. October glories in the grandeur of oranges, yellows, and reds.  Nature puts on a theatrical extravaganza, and we have the privilege of watching the show every single day. This is an incredible time to grab a sweater and enjoy the majesty of the outdoors. Visit a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard and revel in the bounty of the season. Take a hike and bask in the beauty of the changing colors. Or simply go outside and savor the splendor that’s right there in your front yard. Find a nice seat and enjoy the fresh, invigorating breeze, or get busy working on your garden and your lawn.  

October yard work can be quite a chore, and the greatest challenge is probably the constantly-replenishing blanket of fallen leaves. So, how do you deal with all these leaves? If you choose to rake and bag the leaves, you will not only be adding to your local landfill, but you will also be losing out on a valuable additive to your lawn and gardens. Leaves contain nutrients and organic matter that can be very beneficial to your yard and gardens when used as mulch, fertilizer, and compost.

So, here are some tips for using those nutrient-rich fallen leaves:

  1. MOW. If you have only a light covering of leaves, you can shred the leaves right where they are by mowing over them-particularly with a mulching mower.
  2. MULCH. Use the bagging attachment on your mower to collect shredded leaves, and then use this free homemade mulch in your landscaping. Three to four inches of shredded-leaf mulch around the bases of trees and bushes and two to three inches in your flowerbeds is ideal. Place a thick layer of leaves between rows in your vegetable garden, and you will gain both a layer of mulch and also a walkway to keep you mud-free while gardening in wet weather.
  3. COMPOST. Leaves, dead flowers, weeds, grass clippings, pine needles, and other vegetable waste can be added to a compost bin or a compost pile. Composting is beneficial to the environment and your pocketbook. Compost saves you money on costly fertilizers and other gardening products, and is a safe alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It restores valuable nutrients to your soil and nourishes your yard. Compost actually holds water in your soil and can reduce the need for outdoor watering by as much as 60 percent.  Compost helps loosen soil and even neutralizes it, bringing pH levels to an optimum range for plants. It certainly deserves the moniker of “black gold.”

Now that we’ve got a handle on the leaves, here are some other helpful tips for October gardening:

  • Mow lawns to 1½" height.
  • Aerate lawns now while grass can recover easily. This breaks up compacted soil so that water, air, and nutrients can reach the roots.
  • Overseed bald patches when needed, or even overseed the whole yard to make it more thick and lush.
  • Weed, weed, weed, and water (when it needs it).
  • For planting tips, check a planting guide for your Plant Hardiness Zone.
  • Prune dormant late-flowering shrubs and trees.
  • Bring in all houseplants before the first front.
  • Keep planting spring bulbs until the ground becomes frozen. Holes should be about three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb.
  • Wait to mulch perennials until the ground has frozen.

And for some finishing touches:

  • Add some potted mums, pumpkins and gourds, and maybe even a corn stalk or two.
  • Hang string lights to add warmth and interest to your outdoor spaces.
  • Hang a beautiful fall wreath. Try one of these 25 gorgeous handmade fall wreaths.

Now that your yard is looking so wonderful, get out there and enjoy it!