As winter approaches, it may feel like there’s not much you can do to prepare. But there is! There’s a lot you can do to make sure that winter’s damage is minimal and that your spring chores are as easy as possible. These are the 10 things that we’re doing to prepare for winter:
1. Mow it short.
Depending on whereabouts you live, you may continue to mow the lawn all through the fall, or stop halfway through or so. When you near the end of your mowing season, mow it a bit shorter than you normally would. If your grass is too long going into winter, it’ll flop over and become matted, likely causing disease and mold to grow.
2. Fertilize and seed.
Fertilize your lawn in the fall to ensure a lush, green lawn come spring. The grass plants will hold on to the nutrients over the winter and begin growing as soon as the weather permits. Seeding over bald patches is also a good idea in fall. Patch up high-traffic areas with some extra seed and fertilizer and next spring will see an even, healthy lawn.
The final thing that you should absolutely do to your lawn before winter sets in is to aerate it. Lawn aeration is the process of making small holes in your lawn by popping out cylinders of turf. This decompacts the soil and allows air, water, and nutrients easy access to your grass’s root system. Especially before winter’s hibernation period, running a lawn aerator over your lawn will do wonders for your landscape come spring.
When your trees – or your neighbor’s trees, as the unfortunate case may be – shed their leaves and cover your lawn, you probably dread the thought of spending a weekend raking them up. A much easier solution is to vacuum them up with a leaf vacuum. But whichever option you choose, it’s important to get rid of the leaves on your lawn in order to avoid mushrooms and other lawn diseases percolating over the winter.
5. Wrap trees to prevent sunscald.
You’ve probably seen young trees with long cracks in the bark, usually on the southwest side of the trunk. This is caused by sunscald – sun reflecting off the snow warms the bark, then when the sun sets or goes behind a cloud, the bark temperature drops suddenly, causing cracking and splitting. The same sort of injury can occur in early spring when the sunlight is stronger, but the air is still cool. Wrap young trees in protective paper or plastic tree wrap to prevent this kind of damage.
If you have gravel or dirt driveways, roads, or walkways, grade them before winter hits. This will make clearing snow in the winter much easier. Whether you use a snowblower, plow, or shovel, it’ll be easier on you and your tool on a smooth surface.
7. Prevent ice dams.
Ice dams occur when heat escapes from your house, melts the snow and ice on your roof, the liquid drips down to the edges of the roof, and then it freezes there overnight. Over time, this causes a build-up of ice on the overhang of the roof, as well as icicles. You can prevent them in a couple different ways. One is to have your home audited by a home energy auditor or a weatherization contractor. They can let you know where heat is escaping and what you can do about it. Or, you can use the salt sock method. Use either a tall sock or a tube of cloth and fill it with rock salt, closing both ends securely. Sometime before the winter weather sets in, affix the sock to your roof a couple feet above the edge. Come winter, as the salt gradually melts from the moisture of the snow and ice, it will drip down to the roof’s overhang, preventing ice build-up. Each sock should last for a full winter season.
8. Have the essentials on hand.
Make sure you’re stocked up on winter essentials before the big snowstorms hit. Snowblower? Plow? Gas? Snow thrower attachment for your brush mower? Shovel? Salt? Portable generator for electricity emergencies? Have them on hand before you need them to avoid extra stress.
If you have a wildflower meadow that you like to keep wild but not overgrown, you’ll want to give it a nice mow with your brush mower before winter sets in. At this point in the growing cycle, the seeds for next year have already ripened, so you won’t be preventing them from growing come spring. But you will get rid of dead growth and invasive weeds, and set the stage for a fecund spring growing season.
10. Put your machines to bed the right way.
By the end of fall, you’re probably thinking about putting away your lawn mower, brush mower, stump grinder, wood chipper, chainsaw, and other machines. If you put them away the right way, you can just about guarantee that they’ll start smoothly come spring and work like champs for a long, long time. Check out our 5 top tips for putting any machine away for the winter here.
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