Fall Maintenance for Austin Landscapes 🍂
Greetings sweater lovers, the time has come to winterize your garden. Even if you just call it a "yard," it’s there to be your sanctuary, a visual reminder to return to the earth every once in a while.
We sat down with Yucca Yucca Yucca Organic Landscape’s owner Kim Cameron, a plant lover with a degree in forestry who's been landscaping in Austin for 15 years, to talk about yard health throughout the year and gathered some tips for safeguarding your great outdoors from the coming season.
Here in central Texas, we enjoy a brief fall that really only serves to merge an overwrought summer with an unpredictable winter. It’s natural to answer the call of the outdoors now that the weather is finally welcoming, but don't lose control at the nursery and bring home a big haul of plants to put in the ground. Established and native flora typically have the strength to make the transition, but each year there is a collective mourning period as we grieve for the plants that finally made themselves at home in December only to be decimated by February.
Let’s rewind. It’s October. You’ve nipped spent blossoms, fertilized, mulched and top-dressed with compost. You’ve spread your wildflower seeds, placed spring bulbs, planted trees and shrubs and pulled weeds. Well done.
Now that it’s November you’re preparing to store your garden tools but first, fall pruning. Never trim more than a third of the plant and always sanitize your shears and clippers, especially between any plant matter showing signs of decline. If you're the proud owner of an oak tree, you're free to prune straight through January, but be sure to spray paint the wound to close it up to the elements, and again, clean those tools! Now's also the time to trim down winter rye grass to the ground to "green up the browns," and it's a great opportunity to restore some nitrogen if you can turn those clippings into the soil.
Perennials like this Firebush have a natural roundness that doesn't require shaping. It needs protection from severe winters and can be pruned to 6" above ground after a hard freeze.
Looking ahead to December, it’s time to be thoughtful about freezes. Weather-watching gardeners have plenty of warning before a freeze comes, so do what they do. Water well and deep (avoiding the leaves) the night before a freeze, because water helps soil hold warmth. Tidying up the yard is important for your mental health, but try to give a nod to the microcosm living underfoot by leaving some winter shelter for the insect kingdom. Leaving some leaves in place atop the grass feeds the microbes in the soil, especially if you have room in your heart to mow over them a few times. Leaves can act as insulation in a pinch, and can help to protect roots from freezes (see our previous post!), especially when used in tandem with non-plastic coverings all the way to the ground to retain heat. A heavy layer of leaf fall on grass for a prolonged period can be a problem, and no one wants to see leaves where there should be gravel, so this doesn’t always apply. If you can, compost! If you can’t, try a service who will dispose of your leaves with dignity, including Austin's own collection service - you can even request a larger size bin for free.
Stay cozy, my friends!