The earth is showing signs of fall: Crunchy apples are ripening, the mercury’s dropping, and in parts of the country, leaves are piling up in drifts. It’s time to prep your patio and garden for the off-season.
Refresh container gardens
Many container gardens look tired and bedraggled by now, so replace summer-stressed flowers and foliage with fall annuals.
Some warm winter gardeners can grow red or coral geraniums, pink and velvety purple petunias, or snapdragons and pansies in lemon-yellow, orange, violet and white. Lilac, salmon and lavender impatiens are spectacular in hanging baskets. (Like our DIY containers below? They’ll dress up a patio or tabletop. Find the directions here.)
Fall is ideal for planting shrubs, while the soil is warm enough for new roots to form. Add shrubs to the landscape around your patio by digging holes twice as big in diameter as the root balls, and as deep as the shrubs are tall. Put the shrubs in the holes at the same level they were growing in their containers or burlap wrapping.
If you amend your soil to loosen it and help it drain more easily, mix the compost or organic matter into the soil around the shrubs. Don’t just put it in the holes. Then backfill the holes and water thoroughly.
Mulch generously and water again every seven to 10 days, if rainfall is scarce. Wait until spring to fertilize.
Gardeners in warm climates can plant crotons, hibiscus, dwarf ixora and other shrubs in patio containers. Potted hibiscus grown as small trees are great for creating a tropical look.
Clean YOur Patio And outdoor furniture
Take advantage of the cooler temperatures to do some maintenance around your outdoor living area. Rake or sweep the patio surface and remove any weeds that have popped up. Some surfaces can be pressure-washed; check with your Home Depot associate if you’re not sure about yours.
You may also want to use a patio sealant to help keep rain and debris from getting into cracks, crevices and other spaces. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Treat stains on outdoor cushions and pillows, and repair rust spots on wrought iron furniture. Clean patio umbrellas and leave them open to dry in the sun for a few days.
Most outdoor furniture can be cleaned with a mild detergent and soft brush; again, check your manufacturer’s instructions. Rinse the furniture thoroughly and allow it to dry completely. To keep items clean and dry, consider protecting them when they’re not in use with weather-resistant covers.
Houseplants that enjoyed the summer outdoors may need some attention if they’ve been growing vigorously. Cut back tall, leggy stems and remove faded flowers. If you’re bringing any of them back indoors, inspect them carefully to be sure you don’t bring in any unwanted pests. Most insects can be knocked off with a gentle spray of water from the garden hose. Larger plants can be rinsed off in the sink or shower.