Autumn means football games and visits to the haunted houses and cider shacks, and it's time to winterize your lawn. Yard cleaning with the right preparation now will save you time and energy when spring pops up and will keep you and your family safe in the yard year-round.
Proper lawn care starts before the cold weather. Make sure you get the most out of your yard next year by following our fall cleanup musts to do a proper fall yard cleanup.
Till the vegetable garden
After the final harvest, pull out old vegetable plants, remove debris, and completely till the whole plot. If you compost, now is the time to add a layer of compost to help nurture your soil for planting next spring. You can also apply a fertilizer recommended for your garden types.
Break up the soil to keep water from pooling and guarantee that nutrients will reach the roots over the winter. A garden fork will do the job for small yards, but larger yards may require a walk-behind aerator, which should be available to rent for a reasonable price.
Rake and mulch.
Don’t let fallen leaves get the best of you; if left unattended they can suffocate the grass. Rake them up, shred them, and use them as mulch for young trees, shrubs, and flower beds. You might even be able to skip the raking leaves part if you use a lawnmower to mulch the leaves in your yard.
Prune trees and shrubs.
Trim any dead branches and cut back overgrown trees and bushes. If you have blooming perennials like clematis or roses, now is the time to prune them and train the branches.
Give it one last mow.
Set your mower to a low setting and give the lawn a close buzz before winter sets. Lowering your blade helps the soil dry out more quickly in the spring, which leads to a lusher yard.
Divide and cut back perennials.
If your perennials took off this year, go ahead and spread the love. Divide plants and add them to other beds where they will also do well. Dividing saves money and time in the spring. Fall-blooming perennials like chrysanthemums shouldn’t be divided now — wait and distribute them in the spring.
Protect cold-sensitive plants.
Keep tender perennials, shrubs, and roses in top shape through the cold days of winter. Add mulch to the base and wrap plants in cloth barriers to prevent damage from freezing. Depending on the hardiness of the plant and your climate, you can use a single sheet or blanket or wrap them in a combination of cloth and plastic.
Plant bulbs, shrubs, and fall annuals
Some plants do best when planted in the fall. If you want to add new shrubs or spring bulbs like hyacinth, now is the time to get them in the ground. Fall annuals like pansies are also a great addition to keep some color in your yard as other plants go to sleep.
Feed the lawn.
Send your yard into winter with the nutrients it needs to survive the long, cold sleep. Add fall fertilizing lawn fertilizer with high phosphorus content to encourage root growth and enjoy a lush, green lawn come spring.
Spring is also an excellent time to do a soil test and plant grass seed.
Cool season grasses are always the right choice depending on your location. Fall winterizer fertilizer is a must. Warm season grasses could be planted in southern states or held off until spring in other areas.
Clean out debris.
Fallen leaves and weeds are the perfect places for pests to settle in for the winter. Clear out flower beds to keep the critters at bay. Pay special attention to rose beds, as their foliage can foster disease over the winter.
Trim Rogue Branches.
Trim up any large or out-of-place tree branches that may cause trouble during the winter. You don’t want any branches breaking and falling during the snowfall to come.
Clean out the gutters.
Not all fall cleanup is in the yard. Fall is the perfect time to clear leaves and other debris from rain gutters. Check for proper drainage, clear out any blockages with a small garden trowel, and rinse with a hose.
Dry everything out.
Drain all water from hoses, fountains, and drip irrigation systems, and store them in a dry place. Water left standing over the winter may damage your equipment.
Protect the deck.
Prevent the growth of mold and mildew by giving the deck a good power wash. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one from a garden store. Once the floor is clean and dry, add a weatherproofing stain to protect the wood from moisture damage over the winter.
Clean tools and store them.
Don’t throw your gardening tools in the shed and forget about them until spring. Take time to give them a good cleaning and add a light coat of oil to prevent rust during the cold season.
If you follow this checklist, you’re bound to have a wonderfully winterized yard that will be ready to wow you with lush, green bounty once the warm weather returns.