Updated: Nov 21
Fall Clean-Up: What Is It and What Does it Include?
Fall cleanup prepares your property for a strong, healthy spring. The process usually involves routine tasks that should be performed every year, including removing leaves (or pine straw), grass clippings, and other debris from your property.
The best way to make sure your lawn is ready for spring cleanup is by getting the debris off the lawn before it sifts down into the soil or gets matted down in weeds.
What is A Fall Cleanup?
Fall cleanup is a series of lawn care tasks that need to be performed before winter arrives. A fall cleanup usually includes the following:
Cleaning up leaves from trees and shrubs, flower beds, and surrounding areas.
Removing pine straw or mulch from beds and replacing it with a fresh layer of organic matter also falls under this category.
Removing old, dead flowers and weeds from flower beds.
Scarifying your lawn to break up thatch buildup and promote new seed growth for next spring. Thatch is a layer of dead organic matter that sits on top of the grass and can prevent the plant from absorbing the water and nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy lawn.
Raking up grass clippings on your lawn after you mow to prevent thatch buildup. Back-porching or bagging grass clippings keep them from blowing around and help ensure the nutrients in the clippings get back into your soil instead of sitting atop it.
Power raking or dethatching your lawn. Both of these techniques break up thatch and encourage new seed growth.
Applying pre-emergent weed control to lawns where you plan on overseeding in the spring. This step should be performed before October 15 and ensures weeds won't grow and take moisture and nutrients away from your new grass seed.
Applying a winterizer fertilizer to lawns before the first frost or hard freeze. Winterizers provide essential nutrients to your yard after it has gone dormant for the season and will help ensure a strong, healthy lawn next spring.
A rake, a leaf blower/vacuum combination, a wheelbarrow, a garden hose, and a bucket.
A good pair of gloves for raking up leaves will also be needed.
When to Start
The first week of October is usually when we recommend starting your fall cleanup efforts. If you plan on overseeding in the spring, you should start this process earlier in October.
What to Do:
Rake up as many leaves as you can from around your property and bag or mulch them with a leaf blower/vacuum combination.
Cut the grass if it is over-grown. Leave enough height on the grass to allow for some air circulation and sun exposure.
Start dethatching with a manual push dethatcher or riding dethatcher, depending on what you have available to do the job.
Finish up by overseeding your lawn with fresh grass seed if you plan on doing so.
Apply pre-emergent weed control to the areas where you plan on overseeding in the spring.
Apply a winterizer fertilizer.
Removing leaves and debris from flower beds is extremely important this time of year. Leaves left on flower beds can suffocate the plants underneath, preventing them from absorbing water and nutrients.
Dethatching should be done once every couple of years, depending on how much traffic your lawn gets. Dethatching should only be performed when the soil is moist enough to penetrate easily. Applying pre-emergent weed control to your lawn is also important. You can do it yourself with a pre-mix available at your local garden store or hire a professional to do the job for you. If you choose to apply weed control by hand, be sure you don't get any on other areas of your lawn like sidewalks and driveways because it will prevent grass from growing there.
As soon as the first frost or freeze occurs, you should stop all lawn fertilizing efforts.
Providing nutrients to your lawn after the first hard freeze may cause it to burn, which will kill your grass. You can also apply a winterizer fertilizer now to help provide your lawn with the nutrients it needs during its inactive season.
Reasons to Do a Fall Cleanup
Removing debris prevents pests from overwintering in your lawn, reduces thatch buildup that can lead to disease in the spring, and provides nutrients to the turf. And while fall is not a great time for seeding or sodding cool-season grasses, it can be an excellent time to plant spring seed.
Check for Lawn Damage
Fall cleanup also offers an opportunity to scout your lawn for damage, which you can better see when the leaves are gone. Any diseases, insects, or other problems that might be present will then be easier to spot.
Shield Your Roof and Gutters from Destruction by Debris
Fall cleanups also keep debris off your roof and gutters. Residual snowfall melts quickly in spring, but it may not melt as soon if it's stuck in piles of leaves, grass clippings, and rubbish.
Improve Aesthetic Appeal
The idea of fall cleanup is to make your property look good. By removing debris, you can enhance curb appeal and allow a strong spring season. If you're thinking of selling your home, this is also a great time to give your house a deep cleaning from the outside to improve your chances of attracting potential buyers.
How to Prepare for Fall Cleanup:
Protect Your Water Lines
You should also identify where your water lines are so you can avoid hitting them with a shovel. If they get damaged, you'll have a hard time finding any new ones or repairing the old ones.
Be Sure to Gather Your Tools and Equipment
Pack safety glasses, leather gloves, garden shears, loppers, knee pads, and a wheelbarrow. Be prepared to clean up all of your landscaping tools once you finish as well or find out where you can take them for cleaning.
Know How Much Debris You Have
You should also know how much debris you have so that you can plan accordingly. Don't wait until the last minute to gather tools or supplies.
How to Clean Up the Yard
On a sunny day when lawns are dry (after at least four days of drying weather), use your rake or leaf blower to collect leaves, pine needles, and other debris. You can set up tarps or tarp-covered boxes to contain the debris. Then, use your lawnmower or blower to reduce leaves and other collected material into smaller pieces that can be easily bagged, composted, or recycled.
When you're finished raking up the leaves, don't forget to check for clippings caught in areas where you removed weeds or grass.
Fall Cleanup Tips for Residential and Commercial Property Owners
Clean up any leaves or debris that have fallen on your lawn
Make sure you rake up any fallen leaves or debris before they get pulled into your lawn. Fallen leaves can create a breeding ground for weeds. Not to mention, it's just an eyesore!
Remove debris from roof gutters