After it seemed the heat of summer would never end, all of a sudden fall is here. October brings cooler weather and by Halloween we’ll be eyeing our first chance of frost, making the next few weeks the perfect time to tidy up your yard and plant seeds (or bulbs) for next spring. Be it procrastination or my love of a deadline, making a day of it is sometimes the best way to get it done.
So, if you have just one or two days of a fall weekend to make your yard look its best next spring, what to do? Maybe curb appeal is on your mind. Maybe you want the future you to have little surprises of color waiting. Maybe you want next year’s grass to be a little greener. This is a way to make a big impact in a little bit of time.
Note: This isn’t everything your yard needs. And if you already know what you’re doing, please don’t read any further. This is only for last minute get it all done at once people. I am not a landscape or garden expert. Please don’t ready any further if you’ve ever hired one.
- Go to a grocery store, hardware store, nursery (I like Bates), or even Costco. They are ready for this and have bags of bulbs and many will have flats of annuals people plant this type of year. Think about the color of your house and choose one or two colors of flowers that won’t clash with your house or each other. Then go for that color and buy “a bunch.” I know it’s not unique at all, but I’m partial to pansies and tulips.
- Choose a spot for your flowers. If you already have a flower bed then this would be a good place. in the mulchy area in front of shrubs or around trees is also good. Raised beds save time if the soil is loose or they’re empty and you can backfill with dirt.
- I’m saying this because I used to not know this, you probably already do, but it’s not a great idea to plant bulbs like this in grass. You might forget and mow over them. Plus they’ll have to fight your grass for space. And if you didn’t know that you might not know this–you can pull up and remove the grass that’s there to make a garden bed by hand. I still remember the day I learned that.
- If you’re planting bulbs, do those first. Squirrels will probably dig up many of them so if you can dig deeper it will thwart more squirrels. Depending on how much time and how loose your soil is you can really hide them–like under six or eight inches of dirt. You can dig a hole for each one. You could also scrape away any mulch, dig out a layer of soil, and drop in all the bulbs. If you got more than one kind of bulb or more than one color decide if you want to keep them organized or mix them altogether. If it’s too late, just mix them altogether. If you have something like chicken wire you can lay it flat on top of them to help slow down the squirrel buffet. If you’re not planting any annuals, then cover them up with dirt and mulch.
- If you’re planting annuals/purple pansies like me, they go on top of the bulbs or on their own, about as deep as they come from the store. If you just laid down some bulbs, before you add the dirt back fill the area in with pansies (or other annuals), and then add soil.
- Scatter some grass seed around, especially any brown or bare spots. Before you get a seed spreader and go crazy, throw a sheet over any flower beds, gardens, or mulched areas. Stephanie excitedly showed me her new seed spreader one year and assured me it wouldn’t reach my bed of red tulips and purple pansies. It turns out seed spreaders work better than advertised.
- Where you get this grass seed–the same places that sell bags of bulbs and flats of pansies will usually have a bag of mixed weed and feed or something like that–mixed grass seed. You can get a more precise mix of seeds mixed for your microclimate and soil–but it will take a little more time.
- Trim back any bushes that have grown higher than your first floor windows. If you’re looking out a window and the view is blocked by a shrub–go trim that one. Try to make it neat. And try not to trim off next year’s flowers.
- Shape up your trees, especially any lower branches that block walking paths or views of your home. If you’re unsure, this might be one to hand off to an arborist.
- Remove any visible weeds from the places where they shouldn’t be–like in your mulch or the grooves of concrete.
That’s it. It can be made of pine needles, bark, things like that. If you already have one kind but you don’t know what it is, take a piece with you to buy the same color again. If you’re choosing, I would suggest natural materials so they wear well and a color that goes well with your roof. If you want a larger project, you can have a truckload or scoop delivered. But for this all in one weekend blitz, I would say buy bags or bales you can lift. Then you go to all the flower beds and other beds around your yard and spread it out.
It’s about to be too cold to paint outdoors. So if your fence, front door, window trim , or deck could use some paint or stain, now is the time to do it. You’ll need to leave your front door open until it’s completely dry so pick a good weather day for that. And if you let it all dry while you’re planting flowers and grass, even better!