Trimming branches from trees in late fall

Prep your lawn and outdoor areas for the coming cold months to ensure your grass is healthy, green and enjoyable come spring.

Step 1: Keep Raking and Mowing

Clean up fallen leaves before winter sets in. When left on your lawn, leaves can smother and kill the grass. Rake them into piles and bag them for disposal. Keep mowing your lawn right up until the first frost, but keep it longer than 2-1/2". You can also use a mulching mower instead of a rake. The mulch will keep nitrogen in the soil over the winter and into the spring. Don't forget to check your lawn for weeds. Use a dandelion digger to remove dandelions from the soil, and they won't return in the spring.

Step 2: Dethatch Your Lawn

Thatch builds up when grass clippings are not removed after cutting. To prevent thatch, rake your lawn after mowing, especially at the end of the growing season. Or, use a mower with a bag attachment or grass catcher throughout the summer.

If you have thatch more than ½" thick on your lawn, use an iron rake or a thatch rake (also known as a "scrake") to cut through and rake off built-up clippings. For large lawns, consider renting a walk-behind dethatching machine.

Helpful Tip

Never dethatch in mid- to late spring or during your lawn's active growing season. Because it exposes the soil, dethatching can give weeds a chance to take over your yard. Instead, dethatch your lawn once the growing season has ended.

Step 3: Aerate Your Lawn

Over time, soil can become too compacted for water and air to penetrate. Brown grass can be a sign of compaction. Test for compaction by watering your lawn or waiting for a good rain and then observe how quickly the water is absorbed. If it isn't absorbed quickly, the soil is compacted.

Provide air for roots by aerating the soil with a spading or digging fork. Poke holes 2" to 3" apart and 1" to 2" deep. If you want to make the task easier, you can rent or purchase a push spike aerator. Some look like a push mower with spikes or star-shaped wheels instead of blades. Others are designed as attachments that fit behind a power mower.

Helpful Tips

Aerating is generally easier to do when the soil is moist, but not wet. Although aerating can be done any time of year, it's best to do it in the fall after dethatching or after a thorough raking.

Step 4: Fertilize Your Grass

Fall fertilizing keeps your lawn healthy and strong over the winter months. Choose a fertilizer consistent with your grass type. The experts at True Value can help you find the right fertilizer for your geographic area.

If you're using a spreader, fill it with fertilizer on a sidewalk or driveway to prevent spills that can damage your grass. Apply fertilizer evenly over the entire lawn.

Step 5: Trim Trees and Remove Debris

Remove dead growth or branches. Use a handsaw to saw off branches that are dead, infested with termites or that have grown too close to power lines. Two-handed loppers work well for smaller branches. Always cut away from yourself so the branch does not fall toward you.

Safety Alert!

Make sure to wear safety goggles when working with a handsaw or lopper.

Step 6: Around the House

Gutters

Clogged gutters can damage your home and cause flooding when snow melts. Use a ladder to get high enough to see into the gutter. Remove leaves and twigs with gloved hands and/or a large gutter scoop. Use a hose to flush out the gutter wells after you're done. With the hose running, you'll also find any leaks that need to be repaired.

You can patch a leaky gutter yourself. Scrub the inside of the gutter around the hole with steel wool. With metal snips, cut a patch of metal flashing that is slightly larger than the hole. Use a putty knife to coat the back of the metal patch with asphalt flashing cement or gutter patch and press it into place. Smooth any adhesive that oozes out with gloved hands.

Safety Alert!

Always keep ladders, tools, equipment and yourself at least 10' from any overhead power lines.

Pipes and Hoses

Turn off the water supply at the shutoff valve inside the house and open the outdoor spigot to drain any remaining water from the line. Cover faucets with a faucet cover. Store hoses and sprinklers.

Patio and Deck

If you have the space, store patio furniture in the garage, basement or other protected area. Or invest in furniture covers. Before you store or cover anything, wipe each piece with damp cloths and dry with towels. Remove cushions and pillows, and follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions. If you don't plan on grilling during the winter, cover or store your grill.

Don't neglect your deck. Use a broom to sweep away leaves, pine needles and other debris. Remove mildew with a solution of 3 quarts water, 1 quart bleach and ¼-cup ammonia-free liquid dishwasher detergent. Apply liberally to the deck's surface with a garden sprayer. Let the mixture set for about 10-15 minutes. Remove planters or place 2 x 2 boards beneath their base to keep them from discoloring your deck.

Well done! You’re ready for whatever the weather has in store.

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