Fall is the time of year, at least in the Northern US, when homeowners prep their house and yard for the coming cold weather. Obviously, closing the pool and raking leaves are necessary, but what other tasks do homeowners need to do to be ready for winter? Read on to find out!
If your only lawn prep for winter is to rake your leaves, you are missing out on some important steps. After you’ve done the raking, cut your grass one last time.
Then, use an aerator over your entire yard to remove plugs of soil and allow the roots to have better access to nutrients. After that, apply a fall fertilizer to the lawn. Finally, water the lawn to distribute and dissolve the fertilizer. These steps will give your grass a head-start in the spring, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your lawn greens and revives after the cold months.
Fall is the perfect time to do any replanting or thinning of your landscape plants. At this point, the plants are beginning to go dormant, and digging them up will not harm the roots. If you have any areas which have become weed-infested, apply some Round-Up in the fall, and you will not have to deal with them in the spring. If you have any ornamental grasses, you should tie twine around them near the base and about halfway up. This will help them to not be damaged by heavy snowfall, and it will also make cutting them back in the spring a lot easier as well, as they will be pre-bundled.
Fall is also the time to prune back flowering shrubs, such as some hydrangeas and crepe myrtles. Be cautious with the hydrangeas – the Mophead variety sets its buds for the next season’s blooms in the fall, so if you cut those off, you will not get any flowers!
Exterior house prep involves several areas. First, when you take your hose in for the winter, be sure to drain the spigot line of water so you do not get frozen pipes in your basement. It’s a wise idea to install a valve on the water line inside your basement so you can turn off the water supply to the spigot outside and drain that portion of the line.
Next, fall is a great time to wash your windows. While commercial cleaners are just fine, a simple mixture of ¼ cup of white vinegar, ½ tsp. of dish soap and 2 cups of water does a fabulous job as well. Apply the cleaner to your windows, scrub gently, rinse with a spray bottle of clear water and finish with a squeegee for a streak-free, sparkling shine.
The roof is next. Visually check your roof for any signs of damage before the rigors of winter weather hit. While you’re up there, clean debris out of your gutters. If you have an aversion to the sludge in the gutters, use a plastic spatula to lift and scrape the debris into your trash bag. It will keep your hands clean, and it won’t scratch or damage your gutters. In addition, use a plumber’s auger on your downspouts to assure there are no clogs of leaves or debris.
It’s a good idea to put some stakes along your driveway, sidewalks and landscaping which borders on the driveway or walks. These stakes will give you a visual cue how far you can go with your snow blower after snow has obscured the edges. Also protect landscaping plants, such as arborvitae and juniper, which snow might damage.
Pruning will help to avoid damage, but you may want to also consider using strips of cloth to wrap the shrub’s branches in a diagonal pattern (like how the grid runs on a waffle cone) to keep snow from breaking and deforming them.