At Home: Check it off: Outdoor tasks to do this fall

What you do now may help next year’s garden, lawn

As fall approaches, homeowners typically start making a to-do list of lawn and garden tasks they want to get done before colder weather arrives.


At the top of many lists is tending to turf.

Brett Blackburn, president of Blackburn Nursery Inc., 4100 S.W. 40th St., says the first couple of weeks in September is the best time for overseeding, core aerating and making renovations to a lawn because temperatures, particularly at night, are beginning to cool.

Overseeding is when grass seed is planted directly into existing turf, without tearing up the soil or turf. Core aeration perforates the soil with small holes to reduce soil compaction, improve drainage, break up thatch and help nutrients move into the soil.

If renovating a lawn, Blackburn recommends renting a verticutter or slicer, which can cut into the thatch without damaging the grass, making removal of dead thatch and the creation of a seed bed easier. After broadcasting seed over the area, guide the verticutter or slicer across the area again to press the seeds into the ground.

As temperatures begin to cool in September, homeowners also should readjust the blade on their mowers to cut grass shorter, he said. Turf should be cut to 2 to 3 inches.

Jennifer Owens, who works at Jackson’s Greenhouse and Garden Center, 1933 N.W. Lower Silver Lake Road, recommends putting down a lawn food with iron by late September. She said the product allows the turf to gather nutrients for use over the winter.

“If you only fertilizer one time a year, the most important time is early September,” Blackburn noted.

Pre-emergence herbicides can be applied in October and November to prevent crabgrass seed from germinating and stop seedlings from emerging in the spring. Dandelions, henbit and chickweed also can be controlled with a broadleaf herbicide while seedlings are young.

And what do you do with all those leaves falling on your lawn?

Cameron Rees, general manager at Skinner Garden Store, 4237 N.W. Lower Silver Lake Road, said “chop up the leaves” with your lawnmower. Leave them on the lawn or rake up and deposit them in a compost pile.

“It’s free mulch,” Rees said.

Garden care

Don’t wash the green from your thumb just yet. Owens said fall crops, including green beans, radishes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce, can be planted until mid-September and harvested through November.

Blackburn said September is a “great time to add to your landscape,” particularly trees, shrubs, roses and ornamental grasses. Also, plants are often less expensive in the fall.

Fall also is a good time to remove weeds from your garden so they won’t go to seed, according to the Shawnee County Extension Office. As plants dieback for the winter, remove and destroy the foliage to reduce insects and disease.

Gardens can be tilled in the fall and organic matter or compost added to improve soil structure.

To-do list

The Shawnee County Extension Office posts a year-round gardening calendar at its website, Here are some of the tasks the Extension experts say should be done in the next couple of months.


Begin picking apples and pears and storing them in a cool place to extend their freshness.

Harvest pumpkins when flesh is completely orange and harvest winter squash when rind is hard enough to puncture with a fingernail.

Herbs can be dug from the garden and placed in pots for indoor use during the winter months.

Remove small tomatoes from their vines to increase the late development of more mature fruits.

Plant spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. This also can be done in October.

Dig, divide or plant peonies.

Divide perennials, especially spring bloomers. Remove seed heads to prevent reseeding in the garden.

Plant chrysanthemums for fall color.

Hand-pick bagworms from trees to reduce problems in the future.

Bring houseplants in before temperatures drop into the 50s.

Clean and wash houseplants before moving them indoors to reduce the occurrence of insects.


After a light frost, dig sweet potatoes and cure them for two weeks in a warm location. Then store them in a cool, dry location for longer keeping.

Make notes of successes and failures in the garden for next year.

Pick up and discard fruit that has fallen from trees to reduce disease next year.

Pot bulbs for indoor forcing.

After a light frost, dig canna, gladiolus, dahlias and other tender bulbs for winter storage.

Once the leaves have fallen, transplant trees and shrubs.

Prune broken, dead and diseased branches from trees.

Avoid pruning spring flowering shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, to ensure spring flowers.