Top 13 Fall Cleanup Tips for the Best Lawn & Garden of 2021

Richard Hill - Editor-in-Chief

Updated: September 28, 2020

A yard can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s a beautiful outdoor area where families can entertain, garden, and enjoy the wonders of nature. The downside is that these green spaces take some work to avoid overrun weeds and unkempt shrubs. Here’s how to approach a fall cleanup with organization and know-how.

Fall Yard Cleanup

Fall Yard Cleanup: 13 Essential Steps

People often overlook the fall yard cleanup since home spring tidying is such a popular concept. Even so, organizing and clearing away debris in autumn can lead to a beautiful property throughout the season and beyond. To make things easy, check out these top tips.

1. Start With Dead Leaves & Debris

The first thing most people notice when they look around their property is all of the dead leaves and debris sitting in large piles. Rain, storms, and heavy winds can create this deluge of decayed shrubbery, and it’s the first thing to tackle on a fall cleanup checklist.

To start, grab a rake and start collecting piles of weeds, dead plants, and any other debris. Some people like to use a tarp or large sheet to rake the mess onto. This makes it easier to carry to the compost bin or lawn bags. Another idea is mowing over everything so that it becomes tiny flakes that can fertilize the soil.

Ideally, this would be a regular step, just on a smaller scale. Taking care of these things early will prevent several seasonal annoyances later on:

  • Drainage/clogging problems
  • Flattened/dead grass
  • Increase in critters and pests
  • Lack of new plant growth
  • Unmanageable mess

2. Clear Out Dead Foliage

Things such as fallen branches, dying shrubs, and dried tree bark are signs that the plant matter out there hasn’t bloomed to life. It’s possible to try again next season, but first, that dead foliage needs to get out of there.

An autumn cleanup is a great time to uproot bushes, trees, and other shrubberies. The ground isn’t frozen over yet, and the weather is typically cool and dry, making things a bit easier for gardeners. Plus, some perennials and trees do very well when they’ve planted in autumn. Here are some tips for individuals to make sure they’re only removing the things they want.

  • Consider a dumpster rental to help clear away all of those stumps, branches, twigs, and weeds.
  • See which scraps, if any, are suitable to use for natural fertilizer, so the entire bush or stalk isn’t going to waste.
  • Try to uproot dead trees and plants when the ground is hard, but not frozen. Too moist, and it will disrupt the surrounding shrubs.

3. Get the Gutters in Good Working Order

A full lawn and garden cleanup also includes aspects of the house. In this case, it’s important to check out the gutters and drainage system as a whole. Particularly during the autumn season, these contraptions can get cluttered with all kinds of plant matter, as well as critters, bugs, dirt, grime, and excess water.

While getting all of that clutter out, be sure to pay attention to the areas beneath the gutters and around the house. This is where extra debris and moisture can hang out, leading to property damage and mold. A leaf blower can blast all of that stuff out of the crevices and into the open for easier unclogging. Some other convenient ways to get the gunk out of the gutters are:

  • Investing in a rain gutter attachment
  • Leaf-blowing the debris away
  • Rinsing with a hose
  • Using a small trowel to dislodge particles

4. Air The Soil Out

Aerating the soil involves breaking up the sediment so that puddles of moisture don’t collect in certain spots, leaving other areas thirsty and dry. It can make a big difference once warmer weather rolls around.

It sounds like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. People who have a smaller lawn can get some aerating shoes, which have spikes on the soles that churn the soil while walking on it. Another option for larger homes is renting an aerator machine from a home services store. Regardless of the method, it will result in more nourished ferns and plants.

5. Add Some Fertilizer

To look and feel its best, lawns need nourishment. This is especially true as colder weather approaches, and many plants go dormant for the season. Look for a fertilizer with a high amount of phosphorous, which will make contact with the roots to promote new growth. Since many regions experience adequate rainfall during autumn, most homeowners don’t even need to worry about watering the grass after fertilizing it.

6. Try a Mulch Makeover

Most people will notice some yellowing or bald spots in their grass, and this is normal for the season. To prevent that ugly trend from continuing, rake up dead weeds, leaves, and other debris. Some folks prefer to run their mower over it to break it into DIY mulch. Others head to the home services store for a pre-packaged mix. Sprinkle it over different areas of the space:

  • Bald spots on the lawn
  • Bushes and trees
  • Flower beds
  • Young shrubs

7. Prune & Spruce Things Up

A bit of garden maintenance can go a long way. Take some time to prune and water any flowering perennials and to cut back overgrown thickets and branches. Pull the weeds and get the flower beds cleared out. One caveat is for those who live in areas that experience heavy snowstorms. Refrain from pruning until spring.

8. Maybe Mow a Little Longer

While the temperatures are still hovering above 50F, it’s okay to add mowing to the fall yard clean-up routine. Regularly cutting the lawn will keep the lawn looking polished and lush. It also allows sunlight to reach the crown of the blades, setting it up for a more beautiful spring awakening. For the last couple of mowing sessions, use the lowest setting on the blades.

9. Winterize Flower Beds & Plants

Be sure to show any cold-sensitive plants some extra love. This can be through draping a cloth over flowers and shrubs and adding an extra layer of mulch to their bases. Some people also like to keep some surrounding plants visible for predatory insects. For reference, the most common winter-weary flowers are:

  • Citrus trees
  • Ferns
  • Gardenias
  • Peonies
  • Succulents

10. Do Some Plant Division

This simply means dividing perennials, so there’s no large cluster of blooms. Spread the flowers out and re-introduce them into a bed of soil where they would do just as well. Some experts like to place a thin layer of leaves across the garden beds to help protect the soil.

11. Consider Planting Fall Annuals

Just as there are plants that don’t do well in the fall, there are others that thrive. Some new shrubbery or bulbs like hyacinth and crocus will look delightful come spring. Some of the best annuals that will weather the season and blossom in a few months include:

  • Calendula
  • Nasturtium
  • Pansies
  • Snapdragon
  • Violas

12. Don’t Neglect the Deck

For those whose backyard includes a deck, be sure to give it some love and attention, too. The autumn season is prime time for excess moisture to seep onto wooden patios and structures, leading to mold growth and damage. Start with a thorough power-washing to get all of that dirt and grime cleared away. Then, apply a layer of weatherproofing stain to maintain stability, safety, and appearances.

13. Tidy Up Tools & Store Them Away

Finally, it’s time to gather up all of the supplies and tools and give them a good washing. Some people go the extra mile and coat their trowels, rakes, and other tools with oil to prevent rusting over the winter. It’s best to properly store the lawnmower to avoid a jammed, dusty mess in the spring. Drain out the gas and give it a good spray with the hose. Other items to consider storing:

  • Bird feeders/fountains
  • Brooms
  • Garden gloves
  • Watering cans
Leaf Cleanup

The Importance of Leaf Cleanup

Many homeowners dread the change of seasons because it means a new set of chores. However, when we think about the consequences of neglecting the home’s outdoor spaces, it’s easy to realize all that clean up work is what’s best for everyone.

Not only are piles of wet cuttings and tree debris an ugly sight, but it’s bad for the overall outdoor environment. Clearing away all of that stuff grants the soil the sunlight and moisture it needs for new growth throughout 2021. Plus, the family and neighbors won’t have to deal with mold, fungus, and insect larvae or unsightly brown patches on the ground.

Final Fall Cleanup

Other Tips for a Final Fall Cleanup

Whether someone is new to home landscaping or they’re a seasoned pro, there’s always that initial hesitation before tackling such a big project. To help, here are some simple tasks individuals can do today to make things easier.

  • Adjust the mower blades to cut shorter than normal to keep fungus away
  • Deadhead annuals and perennials by pinching off the dying blooms by the stem
  • Prune cross branches to prevent critters from making a home there
  • Trim the hedges and bushes to keep them free of snow and ice build-up
  • Turn over the mulch to remove any first signs of mold

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Much Does a Fall Cleanup Cost?

    It depends on whether it’s a do-it-yourself job or the person is paying for specific services. For instance, contacting someone to rake could cost around $30 an hour. Also, consider whether it’s necessary to buy any tools or supplies, such as a leaf blower. Alternatively, check out the prices for renting an aerator or power washer.

  • When Should One Do a Fall Cleanup?

    The best time will vary depending on the specific geological region. Some areas have very mild autumns, while others start getting super snowy and cold early on. Most people opt to do all of these chores around the end of October to the middle of November. Keep in mind that it’s not going to be a one-day project. Therefore, it might be better to start sometime in mid-fall and continue regularly working for a few weeks.

  • What to Do With Fallen Leaves?

    Some individuals bag them up and leave them by the curb for the township to pick up. Others find it best to gather them all up and add them to a compost bin or take them to an organic recycling center. Some people crunch them up and use them as mulch for the soil, or use them to insulate more tender plants. Others use them for arts and crafts with the kids.

  • Should People Rake Their Leaves Before Winter?

    Yes. As mentioned before, neglecting all of that fallen and dead debris will only add up to bigger frustrations later on. To avoid things like mold, fungus, unwelcome pests and critters, and balding grass, get to raking. Or, use a leaf blower to make short work of the chore. Contact friends or family members and gather together to make it a team effort.

Work Hard Now For a Beautiful Property Later

Hopefully, these tips and hints helped to take the worry out of working outside. For the best soil and flower growth of 2021, start putting these steps into practice. As with most things, a bit of effort now leads to great things in the future, including a healthy-looking property and lovely outdoor space to bask in come summertime.


Richard leads our editorial team. He started his professional career as an Assistant Security Manager and was responsible for the implementation of security policies and procedures. Richard learned a lot about the overall planning, organizing, and coordination of security activities and services for events. As a Security Lieutenant, he certainly knows the value of safety. He builds our content strategy to bring the most actual and useful data about home protection.


1 comment

  • Frank Jasch

    November 17, 2020

    Team Richard (All),
    Just scrutinized your article and just loved its content, down to earth, organized presentation.
    I like Richard’s organized easy to understand info.
    Richard, although I am older than you, I understood your skill and background, as our likes and backgrounds are similar. I was a City of Chicago (retired, Sgt.), Police Officer and more recently, a Security Lieutenant at O’Hare Airport.And I Love my garden.