Autumn ushers in a season full of stunning colors on the trees, football games, and pumpkin-flavored snacks and treats. Fall also means a welcome break from summer's heat, a time to break out the jackets, soft sweaters, and flannel shirts.
It's also a good idea to turn your attention to your yard during the fall, cleaning up any damage caused by summer's heat. As fall winds down, it's also time to get your property ready for another long, cold winter! To ensure you keep your lawn and all outside areas of your house and property in tiptop shape, check out this quick fall cleanup checklist everyone can follow during this year's autumn season.
Wash the deck
Don't leave your outdoor deck, patio, or back porch dirty and unkempt through the upcoming winter. Dirt, grime, mud, silt, and other residues on the deck will hold moisture against its surface, potentially leading to mold and mildew growth. Leaves, seeds, acorns, and other debris can also cause permanent stains on decking timber, patio pavers, and concrete porches. Give your deck or patio a thorough pressure washing before winter arrives, to remove all that residue and ensure the wood, patio stones, or concrete are all protected from potential damage.
Divide the perennials
Perennial plants can be divided and spread across your flowerbeds, gardens, or landscaping areas once fall has arrived. By cutting back your perennials and planting bulbs or seeds in fall, you'll have less work to do in springtime. Fall also gives you a chance to note which perennials are a bit thin and which can be cut and divided without making any landscaped area seem sparse.
Till the garden
Once your vegetable garden is done producing for the season, it's time to till the soil. Tilling brings fresh nutrients to lower layers of dirt, so your vegetation roots can grow strong and healthy. Turning soil also makes it more robust for worms and other bugs that are beneficial for your garden, so your vegetables are more likely to thrive next season!
Trim tree branches
Branches that are weighed down with snow can crack and snap off rather easily, and then land on your home's roof, the roof of the garage, or your car. A broken branch can also snap power lines on its way down. Take time to trim back tree branches during, before the first snowfall, so your home and all other areas of your property are protected from this potential damage.
Trim shrubs and hedges
Jagged, uneven branches of your property's shrubs and hedges can get weighed down with snow so that the stem itself then weakens. Trimming back those hedges and bushes during autumn will make them more compact, with less room for holding damaging, heavy snow and ice.
Rake the lawn
Even if you've faithfully raked up fallen leaves throughout the autumn season, you want to give your lawn one last, thorough raking before your first snowfall. Dead leaves, seeds, and other debris can choke soil, especially when covered with a blanket of snow. Invest in a heavy-duty rake and take the time needed to remove even the smallest debris that's settled on your lawn.
Aerate the lawn
Breaking up sod and allowing oxygen into the lower layers of soil will ensure that your property's ground stays healthy through the wintertime. Aerating the lawn will also keep water and ice from pooling and forming on the ground, potentially choking your property's grass.
Feed the lawn
Once your property's lawn is raked and aerated, it's time to give it one last feeding before wintertime. Check on the type of lawn feed or fertilizer recommended for your area and the type of grass you have, and be sure you apply this feed in time for it to be absorbed by the soil before snow covers that ground.
Clean the gutters
Gutters protect your house from potential water damage during wintertime by directing melting snow and ice away from your home's exterior walls and foundations. It's not unusual for gutters to get clogged with dirt, silt, mud, leaves, twigs, and other debris during fall, so give them one last cleanout near the end of the autumn season and before the snow arrives, to ensure they're clear and ready for all that melting snow!
Wash the roof
Seeds, twigs, and other debris can dislodge roofing tiles and make them more likely to blow away in a storm. This debris can also damage the roofing paper under those shingles, leading to an increased risk of water leaks in the home. Give your home's roof a proper pressure washing before winter arrives, to remove all that debris before it gets buried under heavy snow and causes damage to those shingles or the roofing paper under them.
Wash the home's windows
Washing a home's exterior windows does more than improve the view inside the house! Abrasive silt, grit, and acid rain residue can damage or weaken glass, so that microscopic cracks eventually form. Washing a home's exterior windows before wintertime will remove that debris before a layer of snow buries it and pushes it into the glass.
You might make a point to spread fresh mulch around your shrubs and flowerbeds as soon as spring arrives, but new mulch keeps the soil warm during wintertime. This added warmth helps to keep plant roots protected during the colder autumn and winter seasons. Rake up old mulch as needed and spread a new layer over your flower gardens before the first snowfall, to ensure your property's soil and plantings stay healthy during winter.
Protect sensitive plants
Invest in a ground-covering blanket for sensitive plants and have that covering installed before temperatures drop. You might need to cover the stems and blooms of the plants themselves or just the base of the plants; check with a local nursery if you're not sure what's best for protecting the type of vegetation you have in your yard.
Check the garden hose and sprinkler system
The last thing you want to deal with during wintertime is a water leak along the garden hose outlet or your property's underground sprinkler system! Even a small water leak can lead to an ice dam in a hose or plumbing pipe, and the risk of a burst pipe. Check the connection of the garden hose to the house or garage and your sprinkler system for leaks and have those repaired before winter arrives.
Dry it all out
After checking the garden hose connection and sprinkler system for leaks, dry out all the pieces to these systems. Unroll the hose and nudge water out from one end to another, and follow the instructions of your home's sprinkler system for draining water from its pipes. Drying out these pieces will also prevent ice dams and the risk of busted pipes, hoses, and the like.
Clean the lawnmower
After the last grass cutting of the season, it's good to clean your lawnmower's blades, chute, bag, and wheels. Leftover grass clippings will hold moisture, fertilizer, pesticides, and other damaging residues against all these parts, which can lead to rust and corrosion. Note if your gas-driven lawnmower's owner's manual recommends that you drain the gas and oil before storing the mower away for the winter so that you can start with fresh fluid next season.
Wash the driveway
Letting motor oil and other automotive fluids sit on concrete and asphalt throughout the winter season can cause permanent stains to form, and will allow that material to absorb those damaging fluids. The damage caused by motor oils and other corrosive materials can get even worse if those fluids are covered under a thick blanket of snow! Give the driveway one last power washing before wintertime, to remove stubborn stains and corrosive fluids.
Clean lawn care tools
Grass clippings, leaves, seeds, and other such debris often cling to lawn care tools, holding moisture and chemicals against their surface. Over time, this can encourage the spread of rust and corrosion. Before you put away your rakes, shovels, and other tools, wipe them down or give them a proper power washing, and allow them to dry thoroughly. Store your tools on appropriate hooks so there is no pressure on lightweight tine or blades, and this will ensure those tools are ready for next season.
Clean the garage
Along with all your fall cleanup jobs, you might take a few minutes to do a quick cleanout of your home's garage! Take inventory of all your bags and bottles of fertilizer, weed killer, pesticide, and exterior detergents, as well as fluids needed for your lawnmower and other heavy-duty equipment. Make a list of items you're running low on, so you know what to shop for as soon as spring rolls around.
If any of these items are nearing their expiration date, find out how to dispose of them properly and get that done before wintertime. Cleaning these items out your garage as fall comes to a close will open up room for firewood and snow-clearing salt, and will also make some much-needed space for your snow shovel and snow blower!