Ask Eartha: Get your yard and garden ready for fall |

Ask Eartha: Get your yard and garden ready for fall

Instead of raking and bagging fall leaves, mow them. It’s less work, and it can be really great for your yard.
Photo from Getty Images

Dear Eartha, 
It’s Halloween, but it’s my garden and yard that are really scary. What should I do with the fallen leaves, withering pumpkins and neglected garden?

October gave us some beautiful days, so it’s no wonder you’ve let fall chores pile up. And now that Halloween has arrived, it’s time to meet your to-do list head on.

All those leaves

The color of the leaves this year did not disappoint. However, they are less enjoyable when they’re covering your lawn.

Instead of raking and bagging them, mow them. It’s less work, and it can be really great for your yard. You might ask whether this suffocates the grass. It’s all about size. Mow your leaves into small, dime-sized bits. This might take one or more passes with your mower. The smaller size allows leaves to break down over winter and provide nutrients back into the soil.

If you still want to rake them, no problem, but don’t put them in your trash bin. Instead, take those leaves to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park, also known as the landfill. Yard waste is screened and added into the composting process, which creates nutrient-rich soil.

In the yard and garden

Whether it’s a little flower bed out back or a large swath of yard, there are many things you can do to get your space ready for the dormant months ahead. I caught up with Alyse Piburn — the landscaper, gardener and bouquet-maker behind Frisco’s Mountain Roots — for some expert advice on fall garden prep.

Piburn recommends a half-inch topdressing on the lawn, around tree and shrub bases, and even sprinkled onto houseplants. In garden beds, she suggests a 2-inch topdressing of compost. This enriches soil with nutrients while also providing moisture retention, improving air flow, and contributing to the fight against pests and diseases. High Country Compost — the stuff made from local food waste, yard trimmings and biosolids — is ideal. The quarter-inch size is finer and works well on lawns. The half-inch size is larger and well-suited to beds.

When it comes to perennials and new plantings, Piburn says a 2-inch layer of untreated natural mulch will help to protect them through the winter. New plantings in the fall? Yes! Piburn sees a lot of success planting dormant plants in the cooler temperatures of fall. It’s also important to continue giving plants a deep soak one to two times each week after irrigation has been turned off.

One task we can all manage is leaving the garden a bit “messy” for pollinators, birds and insects. You should still cut back diseased or damaged plants and plants that you don’t want to spread or go to seed.

Pumpkin patch

One activity we can all still enjoy this Halloween is carving pumpkins. When those jack-o’-lantern smiles crack and the triangle eyes droop, don’t throw your pumpkins in the trash. From Friday, Oct. 30, to Nov. 8, drop off your pumpkins at the Breckenridge, Frisco or Silverthorne Recycling Center in the bin marked pumpkin composting. Be sure to remove candles and decorations.

With help from Summit Roll-Offs and the Summit County government, all those pumpkins will be combined with food scraps, yard waste and biosolids to create high-quality compost right here in Summit County. To learn more about the process or pick up some of that compost for your garden, visit

Remember, a little garden cleanup now will make for an easier, more productive spring. And as Halloween gives way to winter, consider how you can help tackle the to-do list for our environment. What daily habits can you incorporate into your life to reduce waste and minimize your impact on local resources? After all, the scariest thing of all is our planet not getting the care it needs.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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