Landscape design and ideas for the fall season

Landscape with firepit

Although many homeowners see fall as a time to ease up on lawn maintenance and landscaping, it’s actually a great time to prep your yard for the coming spring. It’s also a good time to incorporate those hardscape projects you’ve been considering for a while. After all, with Atlanta’s mild climate, you’ll actually be able to take advantage of those outdoor living areas, fire pits and fireplaces long before spring rolls around.  

Get prepped

While your lawn, shrubs, trees and other vegetation are preparing to settle in for winter, there are some steps you can take to get them ready for spring. For example, fall is the best time to install a fescue lawn, says Jane Eubanks of North Georgia Turf in Whitesburg. “Fall and spring are the peak growing seasons for fescue, but if established in the fall, fescue has nearly a year to develop a deep root system to help it withstand the summer heat and dryness,” she says. “You can establish a fescue lawn by installing sod or by planting seed.”

In fact, Eubanks says fall is the only time to plant seed because seedlings need that extra time to develop into a mature plant before summer. “Fall is also the time to overseed an already established fescue lawn,” she adds. 

However, if you have a Zoysia lawn, Hillary Thompson of Super Sod in Athens, cautions homeowners against using fertilizer after mid-summer and to avoid the use of any “winterizer” treatment. “It’s a new tip, and we really want to get the info out because it turns out that applying fertilizer to Zoysia lawns too late in the season is causing disease problems that show up the following spring,” she says. 

Following Thompson’s advice could have a two-fold advantage for homeowners. “One, less fertilizers applied mean less cost and less potential runoff of excess into waterways, and, two, less disease problems mean healthier lawns with less fungicides applied,” she says. “It’s a win-win for less expense and less chemicals!” 

Fall also is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. “Trees and plants that will display bright fall color such as red maples are used often,” says Samantha Spitale, project coordinator for Outside Landscape Group in Alpharetta. In the back yard, especially, she says she is seeing fall color, annuals and focal points with showy color. “It is one thing to entertain in your backyard, but another to entertain in a well-designed ‘space’ or outdoor room,” Spitale says. 

For the front yard, homeowners are continually thinking outside the box when it comes to fall landscaping. “Atlanta has such a melting pot of creativity that it is hard to define just one element,” Spitale says. “We are seeing more and more urns with fall and winter annuals as well as annual beds.”
The pending holiday season also provides inspiration for fall landscaping. “Many homeowners enjoy decorating their homes with festive holiday pieces,” Spitale says. “Some even will incorporate gourds and pumpkins in their annual planters and beds.” 

Take a hard line

Spring and summer seem to be more popular times to embark on hardscape projects in your yard, but the fall also is a great time to break ground, so to speak. In fact, according to a survey by Harris Interactive for PLANET, the national trade association of landscape industry professionals, consumers plan to increase spending on hardscapes this year. 

The survey found that while overall consumer spending is expected to remain steady in most categories, spending will increase to hire a professional for hardscapes and specialty services, jumping up to an average of $2,300 this year versus $1,680 last year. Spending for landscape maintenance also is expected to increase from an average of $600 last year to an average of $700 this year.   

One of the most popular hardscape trends is the addition of a fire pit. “Outdoor fire pits allow for more people to gather around the fire in a more intimate circle and is reminiscent of family campfires,” says Dixie Speck, president of Solterra Landscape in Marietta. “Another advantage over fireplaces is that the cost is less.” 

Speck says she’s also seeing an increase in accessories such as outdoor furniture, greenhouses, pizza ovens, outdoor art, pottery, statuary and even sport/play courts. “Bocce ball courts are making a comeback and are being introduced to a new generation,” she says.

Cook stations are another high-demand fall project. “There are lots of cookouts for football season, and [homeowners] would also like to have it in before summer for the barbecues,” Spitale says. Also, many will plan their pools for the spring so they can swim by summer, she adds. 

Outdoor lighting also is popping up more in fall landscapes. “Because the time change provides less daylight, many clients want to install lighting so that they may still enjoy the fall weather in the evenings,” Spitale says. “Lighting can be installed as simple or as elaborate as the client wishes. Oftentimes, we will light pathways, hardscape patio areas and surrounding planting beds.” 

Lighting also is popular in the front yard, Spitale says, because well-lit homes and landscapes make a home more inviting. 

Update existing features

Fall also is a great time to improve upon your existing hardscapes as well. “Many driveways and sidewalks are being reinstalled or revamped to welcome the company they will have in the fall and holiday season,” Spitale says. “The front of the house is the first thing a visitor sees, and the first impression is crucial.” 

Dressing up concrete is another popular fall project. “Atlanta homeowners are always looking for creative ways to cover up cracked or stained concrete surfaces,” says Matt Dombrowski, president and owner of Greenstone in Winder. “A popular new option is using ‘overlay’ pavers. Greenstone’s 1.25-inch recycled granite pavers, about an inch thinner than regular pavers, install directly over concrete patios, driveways and pool decks. They create a unique upscale look without the hassle, expense and mess of tearing out existing concrete surfaces.” 

As fall approaches, many homeowners look forward to stowing the lawn mower and taking a break from yard work, but this actually is a key time to prepare your landscape – and your hardscape – for the coming spring. When your grass, flowers, shrubs and trees awake from their winter nap, you’ll be glad you did!


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