Blog by Beebe Cline

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8 Ideas to Give Your Yard a Boost for Fall

As we stay close to home this fall and grapple with changes to routines, our homes and gardens can offer more than shelter. A pot of brightly colored flowers on your porch can help lift your mood and brighten your street. Setting up a badminton net or hanging a swing gives kids a place to burn off some energy after school, whether or not they’re returning to classrooms this fall. Installing an outdoor heater for your patio can extend use of the space when temperatures dip and transform the outdoor room into a quiet, cozy space for winding down in the evening. Read more about these ideas and other big-impact ways you can boost your outdoor space to make the most of it this fall.

1. Refresh Container Gardens

The summer flowers you planted last spring are likely looking pretty shabby by this point in the season. Pull out anything looking tired and replace with fall perennials that are just coming into their own, such as mums, coneflowers, ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’) and shimmering ornamental grasses. Decorative edible greens like blue-green lacinato kale (shown here) or rainbow chard can make pretty additions to container gardens and can also be clipped for use in the kitchen.

Don’t want to completely repot your container garden? Read how to transition your container gardens with selective replanting.

2. Plant a Fruit Tree

For a fall treat you’ll enjoy for years to come, consider planting an apple, pear, or persimmon tree. September and October are still good months to plant fruit trees in mild climates. (Cold-winter climates should wait until late winter or spring.) Soils are still warm, rain is more frequent and trees can settle in over the winter, establishing strong root systems that will fuel growth next spring.

3. Update Entry Lighting

As the days grow shorter, exterior lights can make a big difference in transforming spaces from shadowy to welcoming. The lighting for your front entry makes the most impact. Choose among wall-mounted sconces, handsome pendant lights, subtle recessed lighting, pathway lights or a combination of all. If you already have entry lighting that’s working for you, now’s a good time to replace bulbs and clean fixtures.

4. Set Up an Outdoor Desk

As many of us look for ways to set up multiple work or study areas at home, don’t rule out spots in the garden while the weather is still relatively warm. An outdoor dining table could work as an outdoor desk; less-used outdoor surfaces like potting stations could double as a standing desk (as long as they were cleaned of dirt and debris). With a comfortable chair and a view of the garden, we suspect this might become the most coveted work station in the house.

5. Heat Your Deck or Patio

All through summer, decks and patios act as outdoor rooms where you can enjoy eating, cooking or relaxing outside. The addition of outdoor heaters can help extend your enjoyment of outdoor spaces as temperatures dip. Freestanding propane-fueled outdoor heaters (as pictured here) can provide an area of warmth 10 to 12 feet in diameter. You’ll need one heater for a small table or seating area and two to cover an eight-person table.

6. Bust Out the Cozy Throws

Now’s the time to get out any quilts and blankets you have stashed in storage and have them at the ready for cool fall evenings. Stash them in a basket near the back door or drape them over the backs of chairs when you know you’ll be eating dinner outside.

7. Hang a Swing or Set Up a Sports Area

Just because summer’s ending doesn’t mean the fun has to as well. This fall, more than ever, kids of all ages will need places to be active and play — particularly if sports practices have been canceled and students are dialing into classrooms from home. Encourage kids to get outside and burn off extra energy by including play and sports equipment in the backyard. Hang a rope swing, rig up a badminton net or soccer goal and establish a new routine for after school or work.

8. Fill Bare Spots in Garden Beds

Adding a few fall-blooming flowers, ornamental grasses or shrubs with colorful foliage or berries can help take gardens from blah to beautiful. Nurseries should be well stocked this time of year with plenty of seasonal options to choose from, and many still offer curbside pickup services.

Don’t have the time for planting? A top dressing of fresh mulch can make garden beds look tidy and insulate bulbs and shallow roots over the winter. Choose a quality bark mulch (avoiding ones with dyes) and spread on garden beds about 2 to 3 inches thick, keeping mulch away from the trunks of trees and large shrubs.