45 Fall Maintenance Tips
With fall fast approaching, now is the time to prepare your yard for the winter and spring seasons. Doing the work now cuts down on the work you'll need to do later, and makes for an easy start to your lawn and garden next year.
Have your chimney cleaned and inspected. This should be done once a year, and fall is the perfect time to do it.
Check the roof for damaged areas and make necessary repairs. It's much better to catch the problems now and address them early than to wait until a heavy snow load, melting snow, or ice dams take advantage of the weaknesses.
Wash the windows and siding. This is something that should be done every 4-6 months. So, you may as well do it while you're already outside.
Fill in low spots near the foundation. You want the soil to slope away from your house so that the melting snow and early spring rains have a harder time flooding your basement.
Repair or replace caulking and weather-stripping around windows and doors. To aid in the prevention of drafts and heat loss, make sure that your windows and doors are properly sealed against the elements.
Install storm doors and storm windows. These will increase your home's efficiency while increasing the lifespan of your windows and doors.
Check the integrity of your fencing, pavers, retaining walls, pavement, and decking and repair as necessary. Avoid costly repairs or replacements later by making simple repairs now. This also helps to avoid injuries caused by pooling ice on flat surfaces.
Paint or stain exterior wood surfaces. Decks, windows, doors, and fences should all be painted or stained in the winter. This helps to ensure the paint or stain sets before spring. And, it protects the wood from the damaging effects of ice and snow.
Clean off the roof, clean out gutters, and inspect downspouts. Leaf debris can spell trouble in the winter, especially when coupled with ice. Removing the debris decreases the risk of ice dams and clogged downspouts, both of which can damage the roof.
Remove dead and dying annual plants (flowers and crops). If the plant was healthy, feel free to compost it. If it was diseased or infested with pest, you should dispose of it to prevent problems next year. Pick up fallen fruit. This helps to prevent over-wintering of insects. Before composting, make sure to check for disease or pests.
Remove the weeds. As with any other time of the year, the sooner you get rid of the weeds, the less of them you have to deal with.
Plant fall crops and leave in root vegetables. If you're looking for a late harvest, this is the perfect time to plant your cool weather crops. If you already have root crops (potatoes, radishes, carrots, etc) planted, feel free to leave them in the ground. They'll continue growing until the frost sets in, allowing you to harvest them throughout the winter. Just be sure to pick them before early spring.
Cover any garden beds you're not using. Using cardboard, leaves, or black plastic, cover your garden beds to prevent the growth of weeds.
Deadhead to keep flowers blooming longer. As a flower's bloom begins to fade, cut or pinch it off just below the base of the flower. This makes the plant believe it hasn't done its job of reproducing, so it'll cause more flowers to bloom until it becomes too cold for it to survive.
Divide perennials to promote their health. In September or very early October, you should divide perennials that show signs of needing the division. These signs include: dead centers but growth on the outside; blooms that are smaller than usual; or the plant is spreading too far.
Gently till soil. You don't want to go crazy here, but tilling the soil helps to remove the pests that are trying to overwinter.
Bring in tender perennials and potted plants. If you can't bring them in, at least put them somewhere sheltered and cover them with straw to help them survive the winter.
Cut perennials back to 3" and cover with leaves or straw. This helps them to survive the harsh winter and thrive again in the spring. It also cuts back on the amount of work you'll need to do in the spring.
Stop fertilizing your roses. If you've been fertilizing your roses, now is the time to stop. Ideally, you should stop 6-8 weeks before the first frost date.
Take care of your bulbs. If you have summer bulbs, you should dig them up and store them until late spring. If you have spring bulbs, plant them now to have the best flower show come spring.
Amend your soil. Over the spring and summer, your garden provided nutrients for the plants it hosted. Now, the soil needs feeding so that it can support next year's plants, as well.
If you have poinsettias, start getting them ready for a Christmas bloom. Poinsettias should get exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of total darkness.
Prepare your frames or hoops. If you're going to garden over the winter or want to add another level of protection against the elements, set up hoops or frames.
Spray nematodes on the grass and near rose bushes between late August and mid-October. Nematodes will kill off the larvae of scarab beetles, which are detrimental to the health of lawns and roses alike.
Cut the lawn short before winter sets in. The last cut should be about 2-3" to reduce the occurrence of snow mold in the spring. You should also reduce the height of your cutting gradually. You should reach 2-3" on your third to last mow of the year. That way, your grass isn't shocked by the change and doesn't die as a result.
Fertilize the grass before the first frost. This helps to replace the nutrients lost during the heat of the summer, and ensures that the fertilizer remains by the roots all winter long.
Overseed your lawn to combat bare spots. This should be done no less than 45 days before the first frost date. The cool nights and mild, short days help to prevent the new grass from dying. And, it allows moisture to remain near the roots, which limits the amount of watering you need to do.
Aerate the lawn. Facilitate the deliver of air, nutrients, and water to your lawn's roots, which will allow you to enjoy a healthier lawn in the spring.
TREES AND SHRUBS
Prune any branches that may cause winter damage. Most of your pruning should wait until spring. But, if you notice that a branch is dying or breaking, it should be cut back for safety reasons.
Mulch around their bases. Mulching helps to retain moisture and helps to protect against extreme temperatures.
Water when the temperatures permit. Just like summer droughts, winter and fall droughts can spell trouble for an otherwise healthy tree. As long as the water is cool stays cool without freezing, you should water your trees and shrubs. And, just before the first frost, you should deep water the trees and shrubs.
Plant new trees or shrubs. The cooler weather helps to stimulate root growth without the tree having to put effort into canopy growth, as well. This will ensure a healthy root system is established before the spring and summer growth occurs.
Remove thick layers of leaves. While a few leaves here and there won't hurt anything (and can be beneficial to trees and shrubs), thick layers can cause a problem. This is especially true of large leaves. When the leaves become wet, they compact, which can end up suffocating the plants underneath. And, snow mold can also become a problem.
Reuse your leaves. Leaves are a great source of nutrients for plants and beneficial insects; so don't waste them. After you're done racking them up, compost them to use in the spring. Or, shred them in a mulching mower to reuse them in your yard.
Winterize water features, pools, hoses, rain barrels, sprinklers, and faucets. Frozen water is not a homeowner's best friend. It can cause a lot of damage that results in costly repairs. As such, it's important to make sure you properly winterize everything that needs it.
Clean, repair, and sharpen tools. Taking care of you tools extends their lifespan and makes your work easier.
Bring in or cover outdoor furniture. Give your furniture a long life by protecting it from the ice, wind, and snow.
Service your snow blower, purchase ice melt, and get out your snow shovels. Whether you like it or not, snow is coming. The more prepared you are now, the less you'll have to worry about later.
Drain gas and oil from your yard maintenance tools. Gas-powered tools will last longer if you take these steps. If you're really adventurous, you can service them further by replacing spark plugs and air filters, and by cleaning them thoroughly.
Install screens in your attic vents and close up holes in your walls to keep animals out. Animals don't like to spend their time in the snow any more than we do, and they'll search for a warm place to overwinter. Often times, this means that they'll make their way into your attic (and your walls from there). Not only can this be a nuisance, but it can be a health hazard.
Check carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms, and replace their batteries. This should be done once every 6 months, ideally in spring and fall.
Get your HVAC system serviced. No one wants to freeze in the middle of winter while a technician racks up a hefty repair bill. Avoid the problem by making sure everything is in good working order now.
Measure your insulation. If you see exposed joists in your attic, it's time to add more insulation.
Clean your pipes and drain your water heater. Removing clogs and backups can help prevent burst pipes. Draining the water heater removes sediment, which can improve your heater's efficiency by up to 50%.