Winter is just around the corner, and now is the time to get out while the weather is still warm and complete a few must do fall chores in the great outdoors! And although raking leaves is important for your lawn, there are some pretty big additional chores that really matter for your entire home and landscape too.
What you do this fall can set the stage for smooth sailing this winter and next spring. Especially when it comes to your lawn, flowerbeds, outdoor equipment, gardening tools – and your home.
Unfortunately, neglecting a few important outdoor tasks now can lead to big headaches later. Headaches that can cost time, money, and a whole lot of frustration too. With that in mind, here is a look at 6 must do fall chores to help you and your home & landscape prepare for a smooth winter, and an even better spring!
6 Must Do Fall Chores For Your Outdoors
#1 Get Your Winter Tools Ready Now!
There is nothing more frustrating than having a winter storm hit and being unprepared. The best time to find out your snow blower doesn’t start, or that you broke and forgot to replace your snow shovel is not when the snow is piling up outside!
Take the time now to get all of your winter equipment out and have it at the ready. If you have a snowblower or generator, fire it up and test it. Fill a can up with fresh gas and make sure that when you need them, those all important tools are at the ready.
The same goes for snow shovels, scrapers and other winter tools as well. Take a quick inventory and stock up on what you will need later. We’ve all seen the news stories in the middle of a winter storm that the local hardware store has no snow shovels or generators left – so make sure you have them now.
#2 Mow The Lawn Lower – Must Do Fall Chores
Although it is better to mow your lawn higher in the spring and summer, fall is the time to mow it a bit lower. Higher grass in the spring and summer helps to keep moisture in, weeds out, and protect a lawn’s roots. But tall grass in the fall and winter can cause a lot of issues.
Tall grass has a difficult time drying out in the cool, wet conditions of fall and winter. Unfortunately, that can allow fungal disease and mold to thrive and take hold. Taller grass also gives all kinds of insects, rodents and other pests a great place to hide.
Cutting that grass a bit lower when your lawn goes dormant helps to alleviate both issues. That lower height will also help clean up and mulch any leftover leaves that have fallen to the ground.
After your grass has stopped growing for the season, lower your mower down a setting or two and trim it low. About 2 to 2-1/2 inches is an ideal height.
#3 Clean Out Gutters & Downspouts – Must Do Fall Chores
Clogged gutters and downspouts are one of the quickest ways to create a big winter water problem. When gutters are jammed up with leaves, rain, snow and ice, they can easily back up. And it can create disastrous results.
Ice jams in gutters can cause everything from ceiling leaks to gutter and roof failure. All can be quite costly to fix, not to mention the damage that water leaks can cause inside the home.
Take the time now while it is warm to clean out your gutters. Remember as well to flush out downspouts where leaves and debris might be hiding, just waiting to cause a back up.
Last but not least, be sure to remove all of your garden hoses and hose reels from outdoor faucets. Not only can they freeze and crack if left out through winter, they can also cause your faucet head to burst and leak. Talk about a winter disaster to avoid!
#4 Winterize Lawn & Garden Equipment – Must Do Fall Chores
Leaving a season’s worth of collected grass clogged under the deck of your push or riding mower is asking for trouble next spring. When left through the wintertime, wet grass and debris can begin to rot out belts, pulleys, and the mower deck too!
Take time to clean under the deck completely. While you’re at it, remove the blades and sharpen them now. That way, come spring, it is one lest thing you need to worry about.
Now is also the time to winterize all of your outdoor power equipment. Be sure to run the gas out of mowers, string trimmers, blowers and all gas-powered equipment that will be stored.
You can also use a fuel stabilizer additive to keep engines and gas from gumming up over the winter. Either way, gas left on its own will begin to go stale, and it can make starting equipment next spring difficult. We use STA-BIL in all of our gas powered equipment, and it has always worked like a charm.
#5 Clear Out Your Flowerbeds & Garden – Must Do Fall Chores
Nothing will cause more issues next year with bugs, pests and disease in your landscape than letting dying and decaying plants overwinter.
Whether it is vegetable plants in the garden, or annuals and perennials in flowerbeds, allowing spent plant material to rot away provides the perfect host for insects and pests to hide out. That same decaying foliage is also an easy target for disease to find a permanent home.
Remove spent stems, blooms and foliage from perennial plants in flowerbeds. Remove all annual flowers in beds, containers and pots. Be sure to clear out that vegetable garden as well.
Old vegetable plants can spread disease in the soil, and their rotting seeds will cause a weeding nightmare next season when they sprout up to compete with your new plants. And once you clear that garden, be sure to plant a cover crop! Cover crops recharge soil naturally, and keep it from eroding away in harsh winter conditions. See : How To Plant A Cover Crop
One exception for clearing perennials is with ornamental grasses. If at possible, leave these up until spring. Not only do they overwinter well and provide interest, they also provide great protection for many beneficial birds and wildlife.
#6 Clean & Disinfect Garden Tools – Must Do Fall Chores
Last but not least, fall is the time to clean all of your garden and landscape tools. Not only does getting the dirt and grime off help extend their life, it also can keep your plant’s healthier!
You would be amazed at how many diseases can be transferred from plant to plant by the blades and surfaces of your tools. Take time to clean off shovels, rakes, shears and pruners, and then wipe down with a simple solution of bleach and water.
A 1/8th cup of bleach to a gallon of water is more than enough to do the trick. Not only will your tools look great – they will be ready to go next spring. As always, be sure to wear protective gloves and personal protection when using bleach.
If your tools happen to be stored in an area where they can rust over winter, wipe them down with a bit of vegetable oil. It will keep the tools rust free and ready to go come spring. Here is to getting your must do fall chores completed this fall, and to a great winter and spring. Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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