Fall: Outside & In

Fall Planting Tips

Though many people gear up to work on their yards and gardens in the spring, fall is actually an ideal time for yard work. Here are a few ideas for bringing your garden to life in the fall:


Compost the leaves.
Falling leaves are beautiful to look at but may seem like an inconvenience when planning your garden. Instead of bagging the leaves and leaving them out with the trash, consider collecting them and composting them to create nutrient-rich, organic soil that will be ready for use by the spring. Check out our tip on collecting leaves and how to compost them here.

Fertilize organically. When preparing your soil for next year, add organic, slow-release fertilizers that will help enhance your soil over time. These fertilizers are made of natural materials, contain vital nutrients to help your plants grow, and prevent plants from getting nitrogen. Most garden stores today carry a wide variety of organic fertilizers; many catalog companies also sell organic products.

Plant trees. By the time autumn rolls around, summer heat waves are long past, rainfall is usually more plentiful, and new trees, bushes and flowers have a greater chance of surviving than they would if they were planted during a hotter season. Choose species native to your area as well as those that are drought and pest resistant and can grow in the kind of soil and amount of sunlight available on your property.

Other ideas. If you have a vegetable or fruit garden that you want to maintain throughout the winter, consider planting root bulbs and leafcrops that will continue to produce despite the colder weather. This will work in many regions of the country, but some places might still be too cold. Building a greenhouse or a hot beds to cultivate your veggies could keep the fresh food coming throughout the winter!

Can't sustain your crops through the winter? 
Find local farms that do. There are Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and farmer's markets in many cities and towns that allow farmers to sell their locally grown, fresh food all year long!

Windows Waste Energy & Money

Experts say as much as 25 percent of your home's heat can escape through leaky windows. Here are simple things you can do to make your existing windows save energy and keep your home a little cozier:

Install weatherstripping on drafty doors and windows. Storm doors and windows should have weatherstripping on all movable joints.

Reflective Window Film: Place these thin, plastic sheets directly on the inside of window panes and glass doors. The film reflects inside heat back into your home, reducing the amount that is conducted outside through windows. The film costs about $10 a window and is easy to put on -- it adheres to the window directly, or with the help of water from a spray bottle.

Use window quilts or shutters over your windows to keep the cold out in the winter and the heat out in the summer. An uninsulated drape can cut window heat loss by one-third. An insulated drape can reduce it by half.

Weatherstripping: Create a tight seal around all your windows to reduce heated and cooled air from escaping outside. Weatherstrips are plastic, foam, felt or rubber strips that fit around window and door frames with a self-adhesive backing. Prices vary, but average about $5 per window or door. 

Apply glazing compound to leaky wooden windows where the glass meets the frame and seal where the frame meets the house. If you have aluminum windows, you may need to replace the weatherstripping, available at most hardware stores.

Don't try to seal cracks in the glass. Instead, replace the whole pane.

Storm Window Kits: It can be expensive to have storm windows installed throughout your house, but there is a less-expensive alternative. Storm window kits consist of plastic film or sheets to cover the window. Attaching the plastic is done with tape or tacks. Prices range from about $3 to $10 per window.

Button Up Your Home

As the seasons begin to change your family migrates indoors for the winter, a lot of energy can be wasted to keep your family and your home comfortable. Between 40 and 70% of all home energy is wasted, but we could save about half of that by buying efficient appliances and taking energy-saving measures.

Cover your air conditioner: Remove, clean, and store window air conditioners. If this isn't possible, wrap the unit with a thick layer of fiberglass insulation and seal it with plastic sheeting and duct tape to keep out moisture. Besides protecting your air-conditioning unit, these covers also help keep cold air from entering your home through the space around the air-conditioner, cutting heating costs.

Caulk it: Small spaces and gaps around windows and pipes and wires entering the home create create energy wasting drafts that can cut the efficiency of your heating system. Most caulking products cost under $10; rope caulk, one of the easiest types to apply, sells for about $4 for 40 or 50 feet.

Block drafts: Draft blockers are foam plates that fit behind light switches and electrical outlets to reduce drafts that enter through those spaces. You can get a packet of 10 for about $3 and they're easy to install with just a screwdriver.

Install heat reflectors: These are thin sheets that fit behind radiators, to reflect heat away from the wall and into the room, thereby maximizing each radiator’s efficiency.

Upgrade your thermostat: Changing your thermostat to a programmable one allows you to control the temperature in your home at different times of the day without you being home. Keep the heat off when you're out of the house and set it to turn back up before you get home. Some also have a second set of settings for weekends, when people usually spend more time at home. The thermostats range from $90 to $175, but can save 12% or more on your energy bill and pay for itself within three years.