Temperatures are dropping, days are becoming shorter and the leaves are turning shades of gold and orange, signaling that prime gardening season is over. But before you put away the lawn mower and dust off the snow thrower, fall cleanup and preperation for spring needs to be done to ensure your yard can reap the benefits of the next gardening and landscaping season.
It's easy to forget how vital "shutting down" your yard and tools for winter is. But it's a critical step for the next gardening season. Winterizing not only makes your garden look better during the cold weather months, but it will make for easier work in the spring. Start closing your garden down when there is frost in the forecast or the temperature consistently starts to drop to the low 40s or mid-30s, usually around late October or early November.
Not sure where to begin? Create a checklist to organize your chores into manageable tasks. Here are a few must-do items to prepare your yard and tools for next seasson:
- Fertilize the lawn - Fall is a great time to fertilize, reseed and touch up bare spots before temperatures plunge. Try fertilizing in late October to pump nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium into the roots, giving them a boost to grow in the spring.
- Add leaves to soil - Save yourself the chore of raking leaves out of flower beds and instead spend a few extra minutes tilling them into the soil to enrich it for next season. You can chop up leaves with a quick pass of the lawn mower and add to a compost pile, or take to the nearest recycling center.
- Plant new bulbs - Spring flowers like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, and perennials such as peonies and hostas, should be planted in the fall to develop healthy root systems before the soil cools.
- Trim trees - It's best to remove all dead or dying limbs before the snow starts to fall. Snow or ice can build up on weak branches, causing damage to property and bystanders. Trim healthy trees after leaves turn to encourage healthy growth next spring. For easy cleanup, place an old sheet or tarp underneath the tree to catch the trimmings.
- Prep your hand tools - Grab a wire brush and scrape off the caked-on dirt from tools such as hoes and shovels, then clean with soapy water. Wipe metal surfaces with an oiled rag. Lubricate all pivot points and springs and wipe down wooden handles with boiled linseed oil to prevent drying or cracking. Sharpen bladed tools like pruners, and spray bare metal with a penetrating oil to prevent rusting.
- Prep your lawn equipment - Empty the gas tank and oil crankcase of lawn mowers, string trimmers and edgers. Wipe the entire unit down with a clean rag to protect its surfaces and grease all lubrication points. Store your lawn equipment in a clean, dry place. If equipment is light enough, hang on the wall in the garage.