Scarves. Pumpkin spice lattes. Leaves crunching underfoot. Sweater season is moving in fast, which means it’s time to start transitioning to fall maintenance to make sure your home and yard are ready for winter. The following are 10 things you can do to prepare for the cold and wet weather ahead.
1. Interseed your lawn
A summer of heavy use can take its toll on even the healthiest of lawns. If your turf has some thin or bare patches, fall is the ideal time to reseed. A turf specialist at a garden shop or university extension office can help you choose the right kind of seed for your local conditions. After spreading the seed, water lightly and frequently (if it doesn’t rain) to keep the soil slightly damp until the seed germinates.
For those who live in the warmer, Southern regions of the U.S., interseeding with cool season grass seed can help you enjoy a lush green lawn year-round. Speak with a local landscaper or your university extension office to determine the best timing, seed and process for interseeding with cool season grasses as warm season lawns turn dormant.
2. Winterize your irrigation system
If the ground in your area freezes down to the depth of your irrigation pipes during the winter, be sure to shut off the water to the system and drain the pipes before the first freeze.
3. Lower your mower blades
For the last few mowings in the fall (and the first few in the spring), set your lawn mower blades at the lowest recommended height for your type of turf. You no longer need the height of the grass to shade the soil and keep it cool, and minimizing the amount of moisture that’s trapped by the grass can help prevent fungal disease.
4. Remove the leaves
Don’t leave your lawn buried under a thick layer of leaves. If you don’t want to rake, try mulch mowing — chopping the leaves up into small pieces allows them to decompose more quickly, so that they fertilize the grass instead of suffocating it. You may need to mow more frequently to keep up with the falling leaves, even if the grass itself isn’t growing quickly.
5. Clean up your yard
Any object that sits on your grass all winter can create a dead spot. To protect your lawn, remove toys, furniture and other items from the grass. Be sure to cover or store anything that’s not designed to be out in the rain or snow indoors.
6. Prep your equipment for spring lawn care
In addition to seeding, another great way to get a jumpstart on spring is to give your lawn mower a tune-up. By sharpening the blades before you put it away for the winter, it will be ready to get back to work when the grass starts growing again in the spring.
7. Check your roof, gutters and downspouts
Leaks can lead to costly water damage, so check for potential trouble spots now, before the winter storms start. Look for broken shingles and damaged flashing around vents, chimneys and skylights; clean the leaves out of your gutters; and add extensions to your downspouts if the water runs less than three feet away from the foundation of the house.
8. Check your doors and windows for leaks
Eliminating air leaks around doors and window frames is one of the most effective ways to lower your heating bills. Caulk and replace weatherstripping where needed to prevent cold air (and potentially water) from entering. Don’t forget to make sure the seal between the garage door and the ground is tight as well.
9. Service your heating system
Before you turn your heating system on for the winter, have it cleaned and inspected by a professional. Regular preventive maintenance will keep it running safely and efficiently and make sure minor issues are resolved before they become major problems.
10. Test your emergency power generator
Winter wind and ice storms can bring down power lines and cause lengthy blackouts. If you live in an area where power outages are common and you have an emergency backup generator, test it now, and make sure you have engine oil and filters on hand.
Spending a bit of time in the fall to prepare your home and yard will allow you to enjoy the winter months with peace of mind. What’s more, the effort you invest in the health of your lawn now can pay dividends in the spring by jumpstarting your turf’s growth and minimizing weeds. Have you completed everything on the list? It must be time to curl up with a good book, a hot beverage and relax!