The time to prepare your yard to look its best next spring is now, before the first frost.

Share story

The hot days of summer are gone and thoughts are turning from spending time outdoors to winter nesting. But while October nights are perfect for settling in front of the fireplace with a good book and hot cocoa, the cool, sunny days in the Pacific Northwest are just right for outdoor projects.

The time to prepare your yard to look its best next spring is now, before the first frost. “We’re lucky that the ground is warm enough in this part of the country for plants to take root sometimes into November,” says Eddie Uyeta, president and CEO of Uyeta Landscape and Maintenance in Renton. “It’s also a great time to put in a new fence before the rainy season sets in.”

Here’s your guide to preparing your yard for spring – right now.

Fall garden cleanup: Where to begin

Even before you start raking leaves, take a walk through your yard with a pen and notebook. Evaluate what’s working and what areas need sprucing up in your yard. Do you need a total overhaul of your front garden or just some filling out with color or shrubs?

“We like to work with people on a yearlong plan for their yard,” Uyeta says. “That way, you aren’t overwhelmed with a huge to-do list in the spring.”

An important aspect of fall cleanup is pruning trees, shrubs, ground covers, perennials and fruit trees, and getting rid of plants that are past their prime. If a plant isn’t thriving and there’s no way to perk it up, it’s time to let it go. This helps make space for other plants and helps churn up the soil.

What to plant in fall for early spring color

While not all plants are available at nurseries this time of year, you’ll also find some great end-of-season sales.

Fill in bare spots with evergreen shrubs that will stay green through winter, and bulbs that will pop up throughout the year. Dainty white snowdrops will bloom as early as late January and colorful purple, yellow and blue crocus pop up as early as mid-February.  Daffodils and iris are March bloomers in the Pacific Northwest, with hyacinth and tulips not far behind in April and May.

Some spring-flowering bulbs, like daffodils and tulips, need to be planted in October or November because they require a long period of cool temperatures to spark the biochemical process that will then cause them to flower come spring. They also need time to develop strong roots before the ground freezes to keep them healthy and nourished throughout the winter.

Prepare the soil for winter

After you’ve pruned and planted, make sure to cover garden soil with a thick layer of mulch. This serves to blanket plants and keep them warm, as well as nourish the soil throughout the winter. When done properly, mulch also prevents weeds and pest problems.

There are two ways to go with mulch: organic or inorganic. Organic mulch may include leaves, grass clippings, compost, shredded wood chips, and pine needles. Inorganic mulches include gravel, stones, a plastic tarp or durable landscape fabrics.

“The best way to go is to install mulch without any landscape fabric or plastic tarp,” Uyeta says. He discourages the use of plastic or durable fabrics because they’re not all breathable and as the mulch breaks down on the fabric it becomes a breeding ground for weeds.

Uyeta Landscape & Maintenance has been family owned since 1967. Our caring and knowledgeable team has over 50 years’ experience combining art and science into landscape environments that leave clients and communities with a sense of pride and place.