The temperatures are dropping and, like it or not, winter is around the corner. What you do to prep your yard now could make a big difference in what you find yourself dealing with come spring. A weekend or two spent readying your yard for winter is your best bet in preserving the curb appeal you worked so hard to maintain during the warmer months.
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How to Prep Your Lawn for Winter
Don’t cancel your lawn service just yet. You might be tempted to save a few bucks (or some time on the weekend), but it’s really best if you continue to mow the grass until it stops growing for the season. This will make raking up leaves much easier, and it will keep your lawn in great shape. Thick layers of wet leaves will suffocate the grass underneath, so you definitely don’t want to leave them lying around all winter long. If you only have the time or energy to do one thing to do your yard before winter hits, make sure it’s raking up leaves.
Turn off the sprinklers. Once your lawn is dormant for the winter, don’t forget to turn off your automatic sprinkler system. If you live in the a climate where it snows, your lawn will still get the (little) moisture it needs from melting snow. If you aren’t expecting snow, you’ll still want to give your lawn a drink, though much less frequently than you would during summer. If frozen pipes are a concern in your part of the country, you’ll also need to drain the lines of your sprinkler system if it doesn’t do this automatically. This prevents the sprinkler pipes from freezing and bursting during a cold spell.
Prune away. Take a look at your bushes and trees and get rid of any dead or dying branches. Dead wood is a feasting ground for fungi, so getting rid of any branches that aren’t looking so great will protect the health of your bushes and trees while sparing you the expense of having to replace them in the spring. As an added bonus, you’ll have less debris to pick up after a winter storm.
Protect your trees and bushes. If you have young trees in your yard, it’s a good idea to protect their trunks from hungry, gnawing critters over the winter months. Wrap tree trunks in wire or purchase commercial tree-guards. Less-than-hardy bushes will appreciate being given a burlap blanket for the winter. Being covered will protect your bushes from winter’s ice, snow, and wind.
Fertilize your lawn. Like a hungry bear, your lawn needs something to keep it going over the long winter. Aerating your lawn before fertilizing will ensure that all of those great nutrients are able to be absorbed. Fertilizer helps grass grow deep roots, which means a healthier lawn when it wakes up again in the spring. While you’re at it, give any troubled spots on your lawn special attention. If your grass has developed any bald patches, fall is a perfect time to fill them in with a lawn repair mixture.
Move houseplants back indoors. If some of your houseplants have spent the summer happily soaking up the sun on your patio or front porch, now is the time to bring them back indoors for the colder months. If any of your plants have outgrown their pots, this is a great opportunity to move them into new ones. Make sure they get plenty of sunlight and a daily misting of water to maintain humidity.
Clean out your beds. Give your flower and garden beds a thorough cleaning, getting rid of any debris, dead annuals, dried blossoms, and weeds. You can leave the roots of any dead annuals in the ground, as they will enrich the soil as they decompose. Mildew and mold love stagnant beds, so don’t give them the chance to move into yours. Consider topping your beds with a layer of compost.
Spread mulch. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually better to spread mulch in the fall than in the spring. Once the first hard freeze has hit, spread mulch around the base of your trees and shrubs. Aim for 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch. This will help protect them against the colder temperatures and harsh weather that winter typically brings.
Don’t forget to weed, too. Winter is a great time to attack pesky weeds with a vengeance. Like most other plans, they go dormant for the winter, so dealing with them now should mean you won’t see them again in the spring. Spray a good weed killer and consider the situation handled.
Preventative maintenance can really mean the difference between greeting spring with a happy, healthy lawn or spending your weekends undoing the havoc that the cold winter months have wrecked on your lawn. Choose wisely!