As September draws to a close, the slight chill of the fall will soon be upon us. While some see the fall as the time to start winding down their home and lawn care routines, smart homeowners know it is the perfect opportunity to wrap up those few remaining projects and get the home ready for the winter months ahead. A little preparation in the fall can make a big difference a few months down the line when it’s spring again!
Trim up the trees
With the leaves falling off and exposing your tree’s branches, the fall is great for assessing and trimming up your trees. Take a good look at your trees and lop off any dead or dying limbs before the winter winds and snow hit. Better to take them down now yourself than have a branch come down on its own – especially when there is a chance of them coming down on your car or roof!
For extra credit, mulch up those trimmed branches and use them for your lawn. When mixed with other mulched material such as leaves and grass, tree limbs can make excellent natural fertilizer for your lawn or garden.
Scoop out the gutters
Cleaning the gutters is never a fun job, but its one you definitely want to do before the snow and ice starts to come! A clogged or overstuffed gutter can become a real hazard in the winter when snow and water overflows and creates blockages, leading to slick icy pools below when it freezes. If you encounter a serious clog in the downspout that you can’t seem to clear, try using a plumber’s snake to get rid of it.
Take care of the lawn
A good fall lawn care regimen will reap tremendous benefits in the spring. This is when you need to take extra care to yank out any weeds that might have taken root and set your lawn up for a beautiful summer. Aerate the soil so it can breath through the winter months and give it a good dose of fertilizer to ensure a rich, healthy lawn when it warms up again. Be sure to mow and rake regularly to avoid excess debris and un-mulched leaves from getting trapped under the snow.
Don’t get too overzealous though. In the fall months, it’s a good idea to raise your lawn mower a half an inch higher so you’re not cutting too low. A lawn that is shaved down to the ground will suffer in the winter months which will lead to patchiness and damaged spots when spring rolls around. Instead, leave your lawn slightly shaggier than you might normally, especially when it seems like the snow is on its way.
Light up the night
With the days growing shorter, the fall is an excellent time to consider a few yard lights to brighten up the place. Nobody likes stumbling through the dark or trying to find their keys after dropping them on a dimly lit porch, so make sure all your current outdoor lights are working well and swap out any dim or dead bulbs. Consider adding a few solar lights around your garden, patio, and any frequently traveled paths. Not only will these look nice, they’ll also make evening errands safer and help you spot any unwanted critters moving around your backyard (like skunks!)
Putting the gear away for the season
When the cold moves in and it’s clear you won’t be doing much more lawn care, it’s time to put your tools and equipment away safely and securely. This is a part of the process many home owners glaze over in their fall preparations, only to wonder why their mower runs like a rust bucket next summer and their tools seem hopelessly grimy.
Move all large equipment out of the way and sweep out your shed or garage before storing everything away. It’s a small detail, but getting rid of excess dust, dirt, and debris will help keep your lawn care equipment clean and rust-free while not in use. Be sure to wipe down your tools, extension cords, and any ornaments and decorations that are coming in for the season before storing them away.
Pay careful attention to things like your lawn mower and weed whacker. Take the time to thoroughly clean any left over grass and mulch from the undercarriage and be sure that any grass bags are completely empty before tucking them away. Contrary to what you might have heard, it’s actually not a good idea to run the mower out of gas before storing it for the winter. Doing so might actually harm the mower by allowing moisture to gather in the engine, interfering with the carburetor and and drying out the fuel lines. Instead, fill the tank about 90% to full, add fuel stabilizer, and run the engine for a few minutes before storing it for the winter. This will ensure that properly stabilized fuel will be present everywhere it needs to be and moisture won’t collect where it shouldn’t. Lastly, pull out the battery, wipe it down and clean it, and then store in a cool, dry place.
And of course, make sure your shed or garage is properly secured. Get a good padlock for your shed and check your garage door to make sure they latch and lock as intended. You don’t want to come out in the spring for the first mow of the season only to find your lawnmower has disappeared!
Keep your home cozy and warm
Make sure you have a comfortable winter by doing a last check of your home to ensure it is fully sealed and insulated. Check your doors and windows (particularly those rarely used basement and attic ones) to make sure there are no cracks, gaps, or other ways for air to get in. Use weather stripping or caulk wherever you find a problem to avoid unpleasant drafts and save on your heating bill. Also, be sure to check your roof over for any missing tiles or leaks. Keeping moisture out of your attic will go a long way to keeping your home warm and healthy all season!
Finally, change out your furnace filter and run a test of all your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors after supplying them with fresh batteries. If it has been a few years, consider scheduling an appointment to have your furnace inspected by a professional. A little maintenance in the fall is a lot better than a full repair in the middle of winter!