Summer is now officially in the past, and in a few short weeks the East End streets will once again be flanked with piles of dead leaves and brush—the true signal that the colder months are to begin in earnest. While it’s hard to say goodbye to the sunny days and greenery of summer, a proper fall cleanup is of paramount importance if any modest yard, garden or sprawling estate is to thrive next spring.
Removing fallen leaves is just the beginning when it comes to fall cleanup and quality preparation for the next growing season. Autumn is the time when landscapers and gardeners evaluate a property to see what was successful and what needs work to do better in April. It’s much easier to repair issues from the season during the fall. Don’t wait until spring to try making things right for the coming summer.
When summer ends, a good landscaper will reseed the grass and transplant various specimens around a property as needed. The cooler temperatures are ideal for plants to thrive. Established plants won’t endure the shock of a move and new growth won’t have as much of a chance in unforgiving heat and sunlight. Fall is the best time to consider reorganizing or simply moving trees and shrubs to more hospitable areas of a yard.
This is the time to identify areas where weeds are abundant and grass is weak, which often has to do with soil pH, irrigation and drainage. Once all the leaves have fallen and trees are bare, it’s also the prime time to prune back dead or unwanted branches, whether they pose a risk of failure during the winds and snowfall of winter, they block the sun in the wrong areas or are just unsightly and undesirable. Everything is much clearer on a tree without leaves in the way, so keep an eye out for cracks, rot, fungus and hollow areas that may not have been so obvious when they were surrounded by lush foliage.
Mike Gaines, master arborist and owner of CW Arborists in East Hampton said it’s essential to find a good arborist who knows how to properly remove branches without damaging trees. He also noted that fall cleanup is a good time to inspect trees and plan for year-round tree care. Gaines said safety is his greatest concern when assessing a tree, followed by health and then beauty.
Of course, if the leaves are done falling, gutters will likely require some upkeep. Dead leaf matter can build up quickly and compromise gutters, which are an important part of maintaining a home. Gutters are designed to move rainwater from the roof away from the home. When they clog, this water can overflow and fall into flowerbeds and soil on or near the foundation of a house. As this soil expands and contracts from drying and saturating, it can actually crack the foundation, which could lead to a destabilized structure, possible flooding and mold problems.
Take care when climbing ladders to clean gutters, wear gloves and bring a garbage bag to collect the very nasty, and often smelly, decayed material from gutter tracks and downspouts. If possible, try using a protective screen to allow water into gutters while keeping fallen leaves and other organic material out.
Finally, homeowners should continue to mow their lawns through about Thanksgiving. When the grass is clear of debris and leaf litter, thatching and aerating will remove any dead grass from beneath the living layer and open up soil to ensure much stronger, healthier growth. Spread lime around the yard to give soil the proper balanced pH, which is the key to an enviable lawn.