Now that the fruits of our labour have been enjoyed, it is time to clean up our yards before the ground fully freezes.

Proper autumn preparation and cleanup can leave your yard healthy and safe for plants and insects alike.

According to the Town of Okotoks, there is plenty that can be done this time of the year.

Parks Technician Jen Stenseth explains one of the best ways to help trees survive winter.

"The big one is watering your trees really, really well after the leaves drop. Especially in our part of the world with chinooks, to make sure that the root systems have access to water and hopefully freeze solid and don't go through our freeze-thaw cycle," explains Stenseth.

To deal with the fallen leaves, Stenseth offers a few suggestions. One is to finely mow the leaves and let them add nutrients back into your lawn.

If your yard is covered in large amounts of leaves, though, that may not be an option. In that case, it is better to mulch them.

Mulched leaves can be used in your garden and flower beds as winter cover. But, Stenseth does suggest leaving a few behind on your lawn.

"Leaving some leaves on the lawn, a few, is also good protection for desirables, like ladybugs and other beneficial insects to overwinter in," Stenseth says.

Any unwanted leaves can be put into your green organics bin.

It is best to also clean up any leftover vegetables and fruits that were left behind to help reduce potential diseases in next year's crop, as well as reducing the risk of wildlife feeding from the leftovers.

Fall and Winter are perfect times to prune trees and shrubs because diseases and pests are not as prevalent. 

With the exception of lilies and peonies, it is best to leave the stalks of perennials as tall as possible.

"Peonies and lilies should definitely be cut back and composted or put in our green bins," Stenseth explains. 

Stenseth likes to keep the stalks of other perennials tall. Not only is it good for insects, but the stalks help trap snow and moisture for the plants. Ornamental grasses also help to retain moisture in the soil.

Annuals should be removed from flower beds once they have sustained a killing frost. They can be added to your composted pile.

Autumn is also the time to aerate and topdress your turf. It is suggested to topdress with compost to help feed your lawn over the winter. Topdressing also helps battle against wind erosion. It is also best to leave grass slightly longer to help protect its root system.

There are certain bulbs that can be planted in the autumn. Things like daffodils, allium, liatris, tulips, and garlic. However, deer are fans of tulips, so they may get eaten before they bloom.

"Those bulbs actually need the cold and the dark for them to trigger to grow in the spring. So, they have to be planted in the fall," says Stenseth.

Any leftover weeds can be disposed of in the garbage, instead of the compost pile or green bin.

Irrigation systems need to be blown out before the ground freezes, to prevent damaged lines and equipment.

For more information, visit the Town of Okotoks website.

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