1. Clean up the Lawn. Rake leaves off your lawn so it is ready for new growth in the spring. If your leaf cover is not heavy, use your mower to chop up the leaves and allow them to remain on the lawn to nurture next year’s grass.
2. Put planting beds to bed. Clean up beds and cover plantings with pine boughs, bark mulch, or leaves. Fertilize spring bloomers such as peonies. Tall perennials with seed heads or berries can be left for the birds or reseeding. Ornamental grasses will look good until heavy snow beats them down.
3. Trim back trees. Prune trees back once they have gone dormant. Apply anti-desiccant spray to broadleaf evergreen shrubs and trees to prevent winterkill. If you plan to add trees and shrubs for next year, now is a good time to select and plant those that flower early in spring such as lilacs, dogwoods and fruit trees.
4. Plant for spring blossoms. Bulbs and perennials that bloom in early spring can be planted in the fall. Choose bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, crocus and lilies and perennials such as Lenten Rose and Solomon’s Seal.
5. Green your grounds. Start making small changes to make it more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Rake the lawn instead of using a leaf blower. Build compost bins for next year and get started by adding your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves. Think about cutting back you lawn size and adding areas of meadow with mown paths instead.
6. Get the kids involved. Fall is a great time to be active with your kids outdoors. Let them help with lawn clean-up by raking leaves into jumping piles. Have them help you harvest fall goodies like squash, broccoli, pumpkins and apples. Let kids get their hands dirty by planting garlic in the garden to harvest next summer.
7. Plan changes now. Document your existing site through plans, photos, and notes. Reflect on the aspects you enjoyed this year and those you would like to change for next year. Ask your family to do the same. Then collect ideas for next year in a design scrapbook. Over the winter, work with your family to create a plan that lays out new structures, bed lines, focal points, seating areas and plantings to implement in the spring.
These tips were shared by author and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. She was recently awarded a 2010 GWA Gold Award for Best Book Writing for her latest book, "Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love." This excellent book takes readers through Messervy's intuitive six-step process for creating a beautiful and personal 'home outside.'