More often than not, landscaping goes hand-in-hand with the long, warm days of the spring and summer. But don't put your garden tools away just yet — there's still plenty of work to be done outside before winter comes.
Unkempt landscapes can be more than unsightly. They can become a safe-haven for wintering pests and rodents, and make things much more difficult (and expensive) to revive next spring. Taking simple steps to prepare your outdoor spaces for the cold season now will go a long way in maintaining a healthy home all winter long — and make for a good excuse to enjoy some more time outside while you till can!
Put the gardens to bed
There's nothing like relaxing in a lush outdoor living space in the spring and summer months, but getting that picturesque landscape in your own backyard starts in the offseason. Get your pruning done and remove any fallen leaves, dead grass and other common yard waste thoroughly — crop the tops of ornamental grasses, remove spent annuals, and keep perennials and rose bushes trimmed, too. Add a good layer of mulch to perennial flower beds to protect them from freezing temperatures and to deter rodents and pests. Bobvila.com recommends a 2-4 inch layer of shredded wood, wood chips, shredded leaves, or straw applied mid-late fall before the first freeze. Make sure to get enough material to cover your shrubs, trees, and rosebushes, too. If you're looking to add a little something to the landscape next year, fall is a great time to spread wildflower seeds, trees, and bulbs. With your flower beds tucked in, harvest one last bounty from your vegetable garden and prepare the beds for winter.
Give your lawn some love
Healthy as it may seem, your lawn has been compacting all summer long under the hot summer sun. Come fall, it needs some attention before going dormant for the winter. Aerating your lawn allows vital nutrients, moisture and fertilizer to get into the soil to keep the roots system healthy throughout the cold season. Now's the time to fertilize your entire lawn, too, and reseed any bare spots to aim for another lush spring. Maintain your watering schedule for as long as you can, as weather permits, but make sure your irrigation systems are winterized before the first freeze to prevent costly damages to your pipes.
Pre spring spruce up
Spring still feels a long way away, but you want to be ready when it comes. Clean and cover any unused patio furniture to prevent rust and deterioration during the offseason, or move them into storage if you have the room. Tuning up your landscaping equipment now, like mowers, weed whackers, and other power tools will ensure they're ready for another season of hard work when the warm weather returns. Also clean out any lingering gunk from the inside of your grill, refill your propane tanks and empty out the ashtray of your charcoal cookers. Lastly, find a heavy-duty, snug grill cover to protect your equipment from the harsh winter elements.
De-gunk the gutters
It's not a fun job, but someone's got to do it! Gutters are crucial in preventing severe water damage to your home. Clogged, damaged gutters can't move water away from your home as intended and may lead to expensive repairs down the road. Remove any leaves, mud, twigs and other detritus from your gutter channels from on top of your roof or from a ladder. While you're at it, make sure your gutters are securely fastened to your home and take care of any needed repairs. Once all visible obstructions are removed from the gutter channels, introduce a steady flow of running water using your hose to flush any lingering junk through the down pipes. You may even consider installing gutter guards to keep the gunk out for good!
Bonus tip: While you have a birds-eye view of your landscape, make note of any broken, loose, or overhanging branches and tree limbs surrounding the area. Removing overhead hazards now is the best way to prevent any possible roof and landscape damage they could cause under the weight of heavy snow.
Remove the rodent's welcome mat
Not only annoying and unsanitary, rodents pose a tremendous threat to your home if they manage to make their way inside. Before you find yourself stocking up on traps and calling an exterminator, take every step you can to keep the rodents out in the first place. Clear any and all areas around the exterior of your home that accumulate leaves and other material — these spots provide a nice winter home for mice and rats, and give them a better chance of getting inside your home. Seal any cracks or seams around your foundation, windows and doors, and make sure there's no entry points on your roof large enough for something to get in. Lastly, emptying bird feeders and relocating trash and compost containers away from your home removes a convenient food source for any unwelcome guests.
Forgive the cliche, but winter is coming whether we're ready or not — and it's probably coming sooner than later. Cleaning out your outdoor fire pit and fireplace and stocking up on firewood now isn't a bad idea. Move your snow shovels and window scrappers to a convenient spot and fire up the snowblower to make sure your snow removal tools are ready for the first storm, before it's too late.
Fall is officially here! Make the most of the nice weather while it lasts and prepare your outdoor spaces before the cold sets in. Your overall home health will be better off for it, and you can cozy up looking forward to the next warm, vibrant spring to come.
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