Yard care tips for the fall

August 31, 2018

Fall is one of the best times to improve your lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden. The basic maintenance you do during this “second spring” will pay off in healthier growth and fewer problems next year.


Mulch Your Trees

Now is the time to add a layer of mulch around your trees. In the winter, mulch insulates the roots and provides nutrients. It helps the soil retain moisture, too. Even large and old trees benefit from adding a ring of mulch.


The mulch should not touch the base of the tree.

Mulch should not touch your tree.


Apply mulch to a ring around the tree trunk. Remember the Rule of 3:

  • The mulch ring should extend 3 feet out from the trunk
  • The mulch should start 3 inches from the trunk so that no mulch touches the tree; and
  • The mulch should be 3 inches deep (but not more).

For a guide on how to apply mulch properly, visit mygreenmontgomery.org/mulch.

Start Organic Lawn Care

A beautiful lawn next spring starts with simple actions you can take this fall.

Learn from your soil. Whether it’s through weeds, or empty patches, the look of your lawn tells you about the health of the soil. The soil should be loose and teeming with life too small to see—if your lawn is suffering, start with aerating your lawn, adding compost, re-seeding, and leaving all your grass and leaf clippings as a source of nutrients.

Lawn Mower by Martin Cathrae, flickr

Sharpening your blades is good for your lawnmower and the grass. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to cycle nutrients. Photo by Martin Cathrae, flickr.

Replace your “weed and feed” chemicals with grass seed. Fall is the perfect time to restore bare patches of lawn with seed—do this every year to fill in your lawn, because a strong carpet of grass will keep weed seeds from germinating.

3 ways to prep your lawn for winter.

  1. Dethatch (remove thick mats of dead grass down at the ground level).
  2. Aerate the soil (add small holes) to allow water and nutrients to penetrate.
  3. Add compost.

Download our fall organic lawn care guide.
Visit our new organic lawn care website


Recycle Your Yard Trim

During the fall, your yard becomes covered with leaves. What should you do with these leaves and other types of yard trim?

Hands holding compost

Black gold

Compost It. Take leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings, and recycle them into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, better known as “black gold” or compost.

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection provides compost bins at no additional charge to residents of the County.  Simply add leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings into the compost bin, add water, and mix the materials periodically. Then, let nature do its thing.  Over time, microorganisms will feed on the organic material, leaving you with compost you can add to your soil.

Recycle Yard Trim Properly. If you receive Montgomery County-provided recycling collection service, and you don’t have the space to compost, place your yard trim out for weekly curbside recycling collection.  The County collects yard trim year-round. Place yard trim in paper yard trim bags, in reusable containers labeled with a yard trim sticker, or bundle with twine.  Please note, yard trim cannot be placed in plastic bags.

For more information about the County’s yard trim recycling program or where to get a compost bin, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/yardtrim or call 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311.


Image of Recycling bins and yard trim

Place yard trim out for pickup


4 comments on "Yard care tips for the fall"

  1. Thanks for these tips for caring for a yard. You mentioned that you should try to have a mulch ring around a tree that is 3 inches deep. I wouldn’t mind knowing if this a general rule or if specific trees could benefit from more or less mulch.

    1. susan says:

      Thanks for your question, Taylor! It is a good general rule to follow. We recommend keeping the mulch 3 inches deep for all trees, as long as there is a barrier of 3 inches between the tree’s trunk and where the mulch starts. Think of it as creating a doughnut of mulch, surrounding the tree (this handout has some useful pictures that illustrate that idea: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/green/Resources/Files/trees/Mulch-Flyer.pdf.

      If you are wondering about a specific type of tree, let us know and we will get back to you. Hope this helps!

  2. My wife and I just bought a house. It’s a townhome, so the backyard is quite small. There is also very little grass and what grass there is, is very dead. Any tips on what I can do now to have beautiful green grass when spring and summer roll around? Nate

    1. Jessica Jones says:

      Congratulations on your new home, Nate! We suggest you explore all the great information on our organic lawn care pages (https://montgomerycountymd.gov/lawns/) to get you started on your journey to green grass.

      We recently posted a blog on dormant lawn seeding, which will help get you started. If it is hard to push a screwdriver into your soil, then you certainly want to address compaction. Without knowing why the grass is dead (there could have been heavy use from pets or people, compaction, poor nutrients, or poor drainage) and the property being a townhome, it’s likely the soil left from construction was not very healthy. Using a light dressing of compost when combined with aeration and overseeding will go a long way to improving the health of your soil. Consider getting a soil test now (they only run about $8 dollars) and we would be happy to interpret the results for you. And don’t forget there are alternatives to lawns—if you are interested in a conservation landscape or vegetable garden for part of your yard, consider using some quiet evenings this winter to plan something more than grass. Best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *