Yard clean-up: the environmentally friendly way

For better or for worse, it’s that time of the year again when we need to close up the yard to prepare for winter. While the natural inclination may be to zip through it and just get it over with, we’d like to invite you to slow down this time - breathe in that crisp fall air with your favorite pumpkin spice treat - and try taking a more holistic approach that is both environmentally friendly and safe.

Leave some of the leaves for the bees

When you have lots of trees on your property, it’s easy to understand why fall is called fall. Sure, the colours are beautiful, but it can be overwhelming when you have a lot of fallen leaves to contend with. This year, we challenge you to be more selective with your leaf clean up. Consider leaving a thin layer in some areas of the yard and in your garden beds. These leaves can serve as a habitat for bees and other pollinators to hibernate over the winter, and they can also provide helpful nutrients for your garden beds while also acting as a natural weed suppressant. To help reduce the work for the leaves that you do want to clean up, we recommend mulching them with your lawn mower - mulched leaves are excellent for the health of your lawn (and it’s so much easier to do than raking). On the other hand, if you have kids, try a less efficient approach: pull out the rakes and just have fun with it! There’s nothing like the joy of children (and pets) as they jump through leaf piles. 

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Tidy up the garden beds

While it’s good to reserve some leaves for your garden beds, it’s important to watch for and remove any potentially diseased foliage from your plants. Likewise, if there is any excess debris, clear it away to help prevent rot and mold or bacteria growth. So, give those garden beds a good tidy up to allow proper air flow - even if that means removing fallen leaves and then putting some back again. As for healthy plants, they are best left undisturbed - no pruning necessary. The Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton shared that there are a host of benefits to leaving healthy plants to break down over the winter: the seed heads become food for birds and small mammals, the leaf matter harbours bees and fireflies, the foliage catches blowing snow in winter and eventually fuels new growth in the spring.  During this tidy up, consider planting some bulbs as a fun investment for some charming first flowers come Springtime. 

Give trees and shrubs a trim

Fall is a great time to prune back a lot of different non-blooming trees and shrubs (please do your research before cutting back any trees/shrubs that are especially dear to you). Before you begin, look for weak points that may become vulnerable to heavy snow and ice - especially if there are branches that overhang your home or vehicles. Also be cognisant of any power lines that may be near - if you suspect that there are, then please refer to us and our safe tree trimming practices and contact us if you have any questions. Putting this extra work in now may prevent unnecessary damage over the harsh winter months, both to the trees/bushes themselves and your property. 

Drain it all away

If your home has eavestroughing, be sure to clean gutters from debris as soon as most of the leaves have fallen. Cleaning them out will help maintain proper drainage for your roof throughout the freeze and thaws of Winter. While you have your ladder out, transform this seemingly thankless task into something more fun by hanging some LED holiday lights afterwards (with the added bonus of not freezing your fingers off while you do it)! For any ladder work, please be conscious of overhead power lines and keep your distance. Next, be sure to check the perimeter of your house for proper grading - ensure that any landscape work you performed over the summer doesn’t cause water to pool around your foundation. You always want water to be directed away from your house and you certainly don’t want it to come in contact with any electrical wiring around your house. Lastly, before overnight temperatures start to dip, turn off the water to any of your outdoor taps to prevent any frozen pipes. If you have an irrigation system, you’ll want to ensure that all the lines are drained as well.

Fall is such a beautiful time of the year, so it’s nice to honour the season by giving some TLC to your surrounding property. A little intentionality towards environmental care and safety in these tasks, along with finding ways to make them more fun, will go a long way and will reward you in the spring.  

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