Eco-friendly landscaping tips for the fall season
Get ready for the fall season with landscaping tips to save time and the environment.
Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers shares some of her favorite tips:
"One of the easiest things is use your leaves and start a compost pile. I always say, put it in a pile and let it rot. I call it casual composting. Put debris into a pile and let it decompose. Add a little soil. I take my annual pots and dump it in there. That potting mix helps to break things down faster. Once you try it, you find out how easy it is. The more effort, the faster results," Myers said.
Leaves can also be used for mulch. Shred fall leaves with a mower and leave them on the lawn. As long as the grass blades can be seen through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine. The shredded leaves will break down over the winter and add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
Bag any extra leaves and bury them in annual vegetable and flower gardens. They will break down over the winter and, again, add nutrients to the soil. Any remaining shredded leaves can be used as mulch around perennials, trees and shrubs.
Another thing to consider for fall is trimming trees and shrubs. Use the leftover branches to make wattle fencing, which is a rustic fence made by weaving flexible green sapling wood between sturdy posts. "You do a basket weave in and out of those posts to create a fence. It can be a short fence or a taller one to create more of a divider," Myers said. "It's a fun way to recycle, it's easy to do, and eventually it will break down in many, many years, but it's a way to compost in a decorative manner. And those items are pretty expensive when you go to buy them. It's a fun way to put garden discards to work as well."
If you have access to a chipper or shredder, use it on extra limbs and put the chips on paths in the garden and around trees and shrubs. "Put down a couple of inches of shredded bark or wood chips. Don't bury the crown of the plants," she said.
Collecting seeds is another eco-friendly option. Take the fleshy fruit from anything, such as an heirloom tomato, and break it open, scoop out the seeds and put in a cup of warm water for about two weeks. It will start to ferment, and the good seeds will sink to the bottom. Fish these out, dry them off, and store in the refrigerator until planting time next year, she said.
Starting a fall garden is one way to extend the season. Even in northern climates, greens are easy to grow, and pansies are edible flowers that also add beauty to your yard. "I have pots of Swiss chard and pansies on my front porch. I just harvested the Swiss chard. I always say I'm not a very good cook, but when I have fresh vegetables or flowers at my fingertips I can look almost gourmet."
Pansies are particularly hardy, with varieties that can now be planted in extremely cold zones. "We plant them now, enjoy them, snow falls on them, they go dormant, and then when things warm up in the spring, the pansies bloom before you're even thinking about planting other things," she said.
This is also the time many people plant mums, asters, ornamental cabbages and kale.
And you can also fertilize your lawn, in an eco-friendly way, with an organic nitrogen fertilizer that won't burn the lawn. Although Myers acknowledges that lawns aren't considered environmentally friendly, the fact remains that many people have them, and love them, so caring for them in the wisest way possible makes sense.
"Anything you do now, helps you in the future. If you do weeding, it helps you for the next season. Fall is a great time to start the garden, too. Fall is a great time for planting no matter where you live because the weather is a little nicer and a little easier on the plants. Oftentimes you can buy things on sale, which is always good, too," Myers said.
For more information, see our Green Landscaping research center.
Teena Hammond Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.