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Your Fall At-Home River-Friendly Checklist

October 21, 2020


Fall is one of our favorite times of the year. Not only is it the start of tree planting season with Root Nashville, but it’s a great opportunity to set some goals for your spring landscape and set them up for success! 

As the first frost draws nearer, your lawn is beginning to slow its growth and prepare for a dormant season. With less time spent on lawn maintenance, you can turn your attention to your yard as a whole and consider the following:


Plant Native Vegetation

As the weather cools off and plants begin to drop their leaves, you have reached the optimum time to plant native vegetation. Many people assume Spring is the best time to plant because this is when garden centers heavily promote it and when most folks are thinking about getting outside to enjoy the change of seasons. 

Fall is in fact the best time to plant most native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous material. You are past the stressors that come with summer; heat, drought, pest, and pathogens. But you are not quite yet to the frigid cold where less established plants could suffer. Vegetation planted in the summer often has to be attentively cared for, needing consistent waterings and at times additional shading. Vegetation planted in the winter will be completely dormant, allowing little root growth which can negatively affect the plant upon a freeze. 

This is not to say that plants planted outside of the fall can’t survive and thrive if properly cared for, but fall plantings will without a doubt give your plants the proper conditions and a higher probability to grow as intended. Native plant lists for different light conditions can be found in our Rain Garden Manual.

Native Plant Lists


Save Some Blooms for the Birds!

While it may be tempting to remove old, faded blooms, wait until spring to cut them back. According to the Spruce, leaving the final blooms will provide a food source, shelter, and nesting material for birds during the colder months.


Assess Water Leaving the Property (ie, Stormwater Runoff)

One of the easiest ways to help protect water quality is to make sure it’s as clean as possible when leaving your property and returning to a creek or storm drain. You’ll want to pay special attention to where water is flowing, what surfaces it’s traveling over, and if it’s creating any ditches, gullies, or areas of standing water. 

Walk your property and take photos before, during if you are really committed, and after a rain event to look for changes.

Use this tool to map stormwater on your property!


Incorporate Natural Water Treatment Into Your Landscape

Easy ways to help slow and filter stormwater include: 

  • Building a rain garden to treat water from downspouts and sink water into the ground (Additional benefits to pollinators as well as many native plants that thrive in rain gardens provide habitat to pollinators) 
  • Installing a rainwater harvesting system such as a rain barrel or cistern to help capture water from heavy rain events. (Additional benefits of chlorine-free water for your plants and water reserves during drought events)
  • NO-MOW areas in your yard or along stream banks. This is especially important for those who have streams on their property! Leaving a “buffer” area will help to slow down the water entering a creek or stream, filter out pollutants, and keep stream banks stable with their roots. Trees and pollinator plants can be a great addition to your buffer!


Reduce the Impact of Fallen Leaves on Water Quality

As beautiful as it is to see all of those fall colors covering the ground, fallen leaves in an urban setting can have a negative impact on water quality, often causing spikes in nutrient loading like phosphorus and nitrogen. Because urban areas often have hard, impervious surfaces, the nutrients released as leaves break down can’t be absorbed into the ground and runoff into waterways. This excess in nutrients can cause eutrophication, or, the depletion of oxygen and overgrowth of harmful algal blooms in waterways. 

  • “Mulch” leaves into your lawn by shredding them with your lawnmower. Nutrients can then soak into the ground and the mulch will help improve your soil! 
  • Compost your leaves into a beautiful, rich material that you can add to your garden and flower beds the following spring! The brown leaves can help balance other greens like food scraps and fresh yard waste. 
  • If you have curbside leaf collection, rake them just before collection day and don’t pile them on the road or in ditches or gullies. If possible, rake them to a grassy spot close to the curb so the soil can absorb some of the nutrients. 
  • Look for nearby storm drains that may be covered in leaves and clear them 


Native Garden Photo by LEONARDO DASILVA via Flickr.