As always, safety comes first.

Summer is over and it’s that time of year when you search high and low in your garage, barn, or basement looking for all those end-of-summer tools. This is also when leaves fall faster than our rakes can rake, grass no longer needs watering, and shrubs and trees need to be pruned.

Yes, it amounts to work, but “do-it-yourselfers” (DIY) take heart. You don’t have to break your back doing it. There’s always a right way and a wrong way when it comes to doing yard work. As always, safety comes first. Of course, once you get going even those with the best intentions ultimately decide that there are some jobs for which you “don’t do it yourself” (DDIY). That’s when you call in the pros.

DIY: First things first. Get your work gloves ready. This is especially important if you want to avoid blisters when raking up those once splendid, now faded leaves. Do pile them high and do keep a big bag of plastic bags nearby. Don’t fill the bags so much that they’ll be too heavy to lift or drag.

DDIY: If you’ve got a teen living with you or nearby, then definitely don’t do it – don’t do all that yard work yourself. Teens like to earn their own money and many really enjoy working outdoors. Enlist an eager teen and make your life easier. Of course, you could also hire professional landscaping companies that include leaf clearing services in their regular packages as well as for the strictly leaf-stricken.

DIY: Next, remember never bend from the waist to pick up a pile of leaves, twigs, and/or anything else you find in the yard. Always remember to bend from the knees and be kind to your back. Best of all, doing a short 10 minute warm up will save you a lot of time and pain later. Just charging out there armed with nothing more than determination might necessitate a call to your local chiropractor.

DIY: Stop watering the lawn and get ready for the big annual lawn event – the last fertilizing celebration. Autumn is the most important time of year for preparing lawns for spring. While the grass grows slower, it also grows deeper. Glenn Farrell has been with Lawn Doctor for 25 years. He said that this is the perfect time to fill in bare spots in your lawn.

“The colder days with dew on the ground is perfect for seeding, which in turn will prevent crab grass from growing in the spring,” Farrell said.

As for just leaving the leaves on the grass and letting nature take its course, Farrell said that since grass needs sunlight for nutrients, and since leaves block that source, then come spring you will find a problem lawn. A professional, he advises that you cut the grass down to two inches instead of the three inches preferred in summer.

“Don’t remove more than one third of the grass blade. Don’t shock the lawn. Take it down in increments,” he said.

He also advises fertilizing lawns in the fall.

“This strengthens the roots,” he said. The best formula would be 24 -0-18. That translates to 24 parts nitrogen, zero phosphorous, and 18 – 19 parts potassium. If some of you  raised  your eyebrows at  the “0” phosphorous, it has recently been determined that the soil already has plenty of phosphorous and too much of it affects the water table.

DDIY: If  you have any kind of back problem or find that you are not up to necessary yard preparations, then don’t do it yourself.  Contact a pro to prepare your lawn for fall, and think about this. Glenn Farrell said Lawn Doctor has a special power-seeding machine that injects seeds deep into the ground, cultivates the soil in the process and doesn’t need any messy hay to protect it. All landscaping companies have their own special way of saving you work.

Check out what’s out there. Also, you don’t want to do it yourself if you don’t know how much fertilizer to use. Too much can completely ruin the lawn. Many professional companies now use organic fertilizers.

“The biggest mistake people make is waiting until spring to get their lawns in shape,” said Farrell.

DIY: Another task that weekend warriors like to tackle is the pruning of shrubs and trees. According to Richard Gould, vice president of Elise Landscaping & Nurseries in New Canaan, “Timing is important. Avoid pruning in early fall as it stimulates new growth that will not have time to harden off and would be damaged by frost. Also, avoid heavy shearing of boxwood hedges in fall. It’s okay to trim off stragglers, but heavy shearing is best done in Spring.”

You do want to cut back perennial foliage, unless it’s the kind that adds visual interest to the winter landscape. You can also go ahead and apply organic fertilizers around the plants in late fall. Gould suggests refreshing mulch around plants, “making sure mulch is not in contact with the stems, which could cause damage to the bark.”

Apply additional mulch to tender perennials and rose bushes as well. You can also remove any visible weeds, not only for immediate cosmetic benefits, but for reducing weeding in the spring.

Apply an anti-desiccant spray to broadleaf evergreen plants to prevent winter burn. Gould, an expert when it comes to preparing property for winter, said that this is caused by water evaporation while the soil is frozen and water cannot be replaced.

“Avoid spraying anti-desiccant to arborvitae and junipers – it causes damage to plants when applied too soon before freezing weather,” he said.

He also said to avoid spraying anti-desiccant to arborvitae and junipers – it causes damage to plants when applied too soon before freezing weather.

You will want to “tie up branches of plants which have a tendency to splay when there is a heavy snow fall (especially arborvitae and boxwoods) – use a green twine,” he said. Another tip that the Elise Landscaping pro suggested was to apply deer repellant spray to susceptible plants and to water plants deeply in late fall before the ground freezes. Also, apply deer repellant spray to susceptible plants, or netting/fencing where not visually offensive; reapply deer repellant sprays during mild periods (above 40 degrees) throughout the winter.

DDIY: All of the above can be done for you when you hire professionals. You don’t have to do it yourself when the pros have the manpower and the proper equipment to get all of the work done efficiently and expertly. If you’re not sure about any of the above, then let the professionals who have the knowledge and experience do it for you. They have the know-how and know when and where to prune without damaging a plant. They know exactly how much to fertilize and spray and best of all, the pros can usually do all this in one day.

DDIY: If you are not in tip top physical condition, you need to call the pros. This is physically demanding work and time consuming. A crew of professionals can get your property ready for a long winter’s nap and ready for a most rewarding spring.

Last, but definitely not least, get yourself into a fall to winter frame of mind. Think of tucking your treasured plantings in for a good long rest. Then sit back and look forward to the barrage of spring catalogues that will soon come your way.

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