Don't despair that summer is almost over! You can still have a well-groomed lot and enjoy the outdoors well into the fall. There are even a few easy summer gardening tips you can follow now for a vibrant landscape come next spring. Here's your late-summer landscaping guide from the TOH pros.
Keep Your Lawn Lush
A picture-perfect lawn takes ongoing maintenance. This time of year, weeds aren't the only thing standing between you and the turf of your dreams. You've also got to watch for pests, fungal diseases—and even Fido. Here are symptoms and remedies to help you troubleshoot common lawn problems.
Consider bookmarking the TOH lawn care timeline to keep track of what you should be doing and when you should be doing it, year-round.
Clean Up the Landscape
A scraggly yard can ruin all your home's curb appeal. Get out the garden gloves and the wheelbarrow, and tidy up that unkempt landscape.
Prune and Divide Plants Like a Pro
A few minutes spent pruning is one of the best things you can do for the plants in your yard, but it's one of the most neglected tasks of homeowning. Why? Because for most of us, it's a black art. The risks of butchery seem high, and the rewards low. "But pruning isn't difficult," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. "And what you get in return is thicker foliage, more flowers, and healthier plants."
In Everything You Need to Know About Pruning and Dividing Plants, we show you a few simple pruning techniques and how to apply them. Once you've mastered those, it's just a matter of timing.
According to Roger, the best time for division is either in early spring, as soon as new growth is visible above the ground, or in the fall, after they have finished blooming. See How to Divide Perennials for more.
Attract Good Bugs
Your yard is crawling with insects—but not everything that buzzes, creeps, or wriggles is there to decimate your begonias. Some of these bugs will help make your landscape beautiful by serving as pest predators, plant pollinators, and soil aerators.
Renew Porches and Decks
Clean up and repair the decking on your outdoor spaces so they're safer and more inviting for summer and fall entertaining.
Polish Up Paths and Patios
Don't let another winter wreak havok on your hardscaping! Seal cracks so that ice won't make them worse later in the year. It's worth it to bring your walkways and entertaining areas into tip-top shape now, while the weather's mild—and you can still enjoy your yard!
Attract Birds and Wildlife
Create a year-round wildlife-friendly habitat by following our guidelines in How to Create a Wildlife-Friendly Habitat Garden.
Consider Adding These Late-Summer Bloomers
Once the dog days of summer hit, flower gardens generally start looking tired. Colors wash out, edges brown, and blossoms become fewer in number. As you're planning next season's garden beds, fill your garden with glorious, color-filled beds.
Include a Few Fall Bloomers, Too
To keep your garden blooming into the fall, consider a few of the varieties that bloom during the season. Note that spent blossoms on these summer-flowering perennials can be clipped to encourage blooming long into the fall.
Get Ready to Seed in the Fall
Don't spend the rest of summer lamenting your tattered yard or wishing that your patch of dirt were a blanket of soft blades, you can stop. It won't get any better, at least not this year. But next spring could be a whole other story if you seed this fall—the perfect time to start a new lawn.
"Seeding is the easiest thing for a homeowner to do," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. "It just takes a little soil preparation, the right mix of seed, and lots of watering."
Turn Clippings into Compost
Pile up all those leaves you've raked with yard clippings and select food waste, and microbes will naturally break down the organic matter to create a nutrient-rich soil additive. The decomposition process takes a few months, so start your pile today, and by springtime, you'll have heaps of so-called black gold to nourish your treasured shrubs and garden plants—for free.
Prep for Fall Planting
"I don't know why people don't do more yard work in September," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. "Fall is the absolute best time to get things done, and it gives you a head start on spring."