Autumn yard work is more than just raking leaves. The season provides the mild weather we need to maintain and winterize our homes. A little work now can prevent hassles in the spring. Here are some quick tips to keep your home and landscape looking fresh until the new year.
Autumn is the perfect time for lawn maintenance: The cooling temperature limits aboveground growth, meaning that the roots gain priority. The best action you can take to care for your lawn is to aerate the soil. This allows moisture to reach the roots, strengthening them and improving the overall health of your lawn. A high phosphorus fertilizer will also encourage root growth.
The debate rages between rakers and non-rakers. Some keep their lawns pristine despite the never-ending supply of falling leaves, tossing bags to the curb every chance they get. Others embrace the season’s disheveled nature, letting the leaves lie for as long as possible. The disadvantage of the latter method is that it potentially endangers your lawn with the first snowfall, when compacted leaves will damage the turf. But, there are advantages to each approach.
Dan’s Papers’ View from the Garden columnist Jeanelle Myers says, “I ask the mowers to leave any fallen leaves in the garden beds…Food for soil flora and fauna is available from plant debris.” Mulch your leaves, collect them in your compost pile, and spread a thin layer of leaf and grass clippings in your flowerbeds.
Some keep their flower beds clean, the soil exposed, and the plants trimmed back for winter. Manicured gardens are beautiful, but they require extra attention. If you decide to keep your gardens spotless, ask your landscaper what nutrient options would best benefit your plants. No garden, no matter how well trimmed, can thrive if plants are starving.
Other gardeners embrace a wilder look in autumn in order to take advantage of the natural nutrients of leaf litter. Myers says that the organic materials, in addition to feeding your plants, will keep the soil warm longer into winter. A thin layer of leaves and mulch is ideal. Cut away dead branches and stems, especially on perennials, but feel free to let your plants get a little disheveled. If you need an excuse for keeping your garden leafy, just tell your friends that the undone look is in right now, and you’re going for more of a bohemian garden.
Decks, Patios & Patio Furniture
Patio furniture should be cleaned before being stored away in the late fall. If they can’t be stored inside, place them beneath an overhang or cover them in tarps. This will substantially extend the life of your patio furniture, especially those made of wood.
All decks and patios should be swept clean of debris. Wood decks should be washed down with deck soap. If necessary, apply a water sealant. Concrete patios should be cared for in a similar fashion, swept and washed, and then sealed to avoid winter cracks. Brick patios should have any heavy objects removed, and joint sand replenished between bricks. Stone patios should be weeded and pressure washed. If you are concerned about the color fading from your stones, consider staining or sealing them.
Grills are fairly low-maintenance when it comes to winterizing: A good cleaning and cover are all they need. Start up the grill on high heat. While the grates are hot, scrape them with a wire brush. If you feel your grill requires more cleaning, wait for the grill to cool, clean with soapy water, and rinse. Use hot soapy water to remove buildup on the outside, then cover. Consult your grill’s manual to find out if further steps are required. If possible, store your grill in a dry location.
Beyond your usual pool rituals, begin winterizing your pool by cleaning the equipment and cover. It is also advised to lower the water level of the pool before the temperature drops: water expands when it freezes, and can potentially damage equipment. Winterizer kits are also vital in ensuring your pool will be ready for you on the other side of winter. As always, remove leaves, and be sure water and filters are free of debris before covering.
Although greenhouses will protect your plants from wind and cold, they can be little help in winter if your glass is dirty. The calcium carbonate you may have applied in the summer must now be removed, or your plants will be starved for light. If the glass is dirty, your plants won’t get the light they need. Soapy water works well here, although it does take a bit of time. Adding a little bleach to water works wonders for killing mold and moss. Sweep and disinfect your greenhouse floor while your plants are outside. Replace any broken panes, and remove debris from crevices.
Fall is the time to give your home’s exterior a good cleaning, and the siding is no exception. Bill Smith of Mildew Busters, based on Shelter Island, says now is the best time to remove any mold and mildew from your home’s exterior. “Removing it now eliminates it [becoming] worse in the spring and eliminates the possibility of rot setting in.” he says. Because the moisture from rain and snow “feeds” mold and mildew, it should be removed before it has a chance to winter over.
Roofs and Gutters
Again, get the gunk out. Letting debris sit on roof seams and gutters is a surefire way to accumulate moisture. When this moisture freezes, it will cause, among other things, a massive headache. Install screens on top of your gutters to prevent clogs, and replace roof panels if you see any are missing or damaged.
For all of your home care needs visit Dan’s List of professionals at dansbotb.com