With fall well underway, it’s time for home and property owners and renters to give outdoor areas time and attention to prepare for temperature and weather changes and seasonal festivities and holidays. This guide provides the top basic steps that you need to take to improve your landscape this time of year.

Harvest and Preserve Decorative and Edible Plants

Many people use early-fall plants to decorate their homes. To create decorative plants, cut long grasses, wild and domesticated flowers, leaves and even branches, and either hang the plants in a dry, low-humidity, warm area or use a drying agent with or without a sealant. Additionally, fall is harvest season. Pick fruits, including nuts, vegetables and any edible parts of plants, and then use your favorite preservation method (i.e., canning, dehydrating or freezing) to make them last through fall and winter.

Mow, Prune and Trim to Prepare for Upcoming Changes

After you gather every decorative and edible plant you want to keep, prepare the lawn and garden for whatever seasonal changes are common to your geographic area. In general, most people mow their lawns as part of continued maintenance and then perform extra aeration, nourishment, sodding and reseeding tasks. You also need to install and trim back any perennial plants that grow throughout the year and naturally remain in a landscape for longer than two years, such as bushes, shrubs, trees and some vines. Check with a local tree trimming company to find out the best time of year to prune the trees on your property. Additionally, switch out summer or annual plants with ones that flower or grow well in your region during the fall.

Remove and Recycle Unwanted Plant and Other Materials

While cutting plants, always make certain to cut away or dig out diseased or pest-attracting parts or whole plants, including old branches and stumps. Pull weeds, annuals or other plants that have died off, take up unnecessary space, or stop producing flowers or fruits. Rake up leaves, twigs and other plant parts on the ground to allow sunlight to reach grass and other plants. Also, clean the gutters to remove leaves and other debris. If you don’t have a rain barrel or compost bin filled with soil and earthworms, it’s time to invest in both to make saving water and recycling plant materials easier. The former can help lower water bills when maintaining indoor potted and greenhouse plants. The latter can create nutrient-rich, dark soil perfect for potted plants and spring gardens.

Prepare for Winter Weather and Future Growth and Planting

Many property owners don’t realize fall is the perfect time to place spring plant bulbs in the ground or set up basement or storage grow lamps. Also, beyond nourishing the land with specially formulated topsoil and time-released fertilizer, you need to keep weeds low, preserve ground moisture and protect underground root systems against temperature fluctuations by using mulch around perennials. Plant hardy cover crops in any uncovered soil areas you plan to use for gardening or flowers next year. If you live in a colder climate, treat outdoor potted plants for pests and move them into the home or a greenhouse. If you have an irrigation system and live where temperatures drop to freezing or below, drain the hoses and pipes.

Deal With Pesky Critters Before They Enter the Home

During the fall, many insects and other pests, such as birds, chipmunks, mice, raccoons and squirrels, try to move into homes and other structures to escape seasonal weather changes. Check your property for signs of potential entry points or pest occupation, such as holes and cracks in exterior siding and foundation blocks, holes and tunnels in the lawn, damage to wood, pest droppings, carcasses, nests, foul odors and claw or teeth marks. Consider hiring a professional pest control specialist to detect and remove pests and install baits and barriers such as fox fencing to prevent new infestations.

Maintain and Store Away Landscape and Gardening Equipment

Even if you need to use your lawn and garden equipment year-round, fall is the perfect time to perform maintenance and store unneeded pieces. Clean away dirt and debris from all surfaces, replace, sharpen or tighten parts, and then use manufacturer-approved oils or protective creams and fluids to treat surfaces, especially metal ones, and prevent rusting and deterioration. If you don’t use this equipment during winter, store it in a well-maintained, dry shed or garage. If the equipment uses gasoline, drain out the fuel before storage. Also, if you only have one storage area and don’t need the equipment, move it to the back to make accessing other items easier, such as winter gear and snow removal equipment.

Make Your Property Look Fantastic by Adding Finishing Touches

After making physical changes to your lawn and garden, you need to consider how you want your home and landscape to look in the fall and possibly winter. Repair or install hardscaping elements, such as walkways, retaining walls and stone gardens. If you have a pond or other water-based installation on your property, perform fall maintenance and winterization. Clean the exterior of your home, garage and any other outdoor structures, such as a gazebo or trellis, via a power washer or other method, perform repairs, and then add a fresh coat of paint. Once you’ve finished these tasks, add common dried or faux fall decorations to outdoor spaces, such as gourds and pumpkins, autumnal wreaths and other items related to harvest, Halloween or Thanksgiving.

Final Thoughts About Seasonal Landscape Changes

Before you begin any lawn or garden project, you must always consider other outdoor changes you want or need to make that could ruin your work. Talk to a home improvement specialist or contractor before performing any lawn or garden tasks, especially if you want to install an outdoor fire pit, kitchen or gathering area, or even a simple hot or arctic tub. Contractors might need to drive heavy equipment on the lawn to bring in materials or products. They might need to dig through the ground to alter outdoor electrical or plumbing systems. Lastly, do-it-yourself actions for some projects, such as installations and pest control, can lead to higher costs if you fail to perform everything correctly the first time. Keep in mind that hiring one or more professionals can help you save time and money in the long run