It’s that time of the year again when the air is crisp, trees are becoming bare, home renovations coming to an end and lawns are starting to look brown or splotchy. That also means it’s time to get your lawn ready for the colder months ahead. The five steps detailed here will help make your yard look better now, will help protect it through the winter months, and will support it so that it comes back to life quicker when the weather warms up again.
Step 1: Clear the Debris
When the leaves start changing colors, most people are awestruck by their beauty. For some homeowners, though it’s the harbinger of copious amounts of yard work. People are either on Team Leave the Leaves or Team Rake ‘em Up, and like politics, there’s little room for middle ground. On the one hand, the leaves will create great insulation, and will provide the soil with essential nutrients if left behind. It’s also nature’s way, so some people opt to leaves where they land. On the other hand, they’re unsightly and messy, so others choose to rake them up. There’s another downside to leaving them behind as well. They can suffocate the grass, especially when they’re wet. Don’t throw them away, though- you’ll be able to use them in the steps to come.
Step 2: Prepare the Lawn for Next Season
When it starts getting cooler out, it’s time to aerate the lawn. Although grass growth tends to slow during the colder months, the root system keeps growing. Aeration allows water, oxygen, and fertilizer to reach them, so they’re healthier and the grass comes in beautifully next season. Start with short-cut grass, and aerate when the ground is moist to make it easier. A gas-powered machine can be rented for about $85 per day, and upgraded models with better steering are often available for a few dollars more. After this, the lawn should be fertilized, and bare spots should be overseeded. The leaves that have been collected can be mulched and added on top, but save some for your yard’s other needs.
- Remove Annuals
Annual plants are likely already dead, and now is the time to pull them out, but don’t confuse them with your perennials, which have gone dormant, and only appear to be dead. The fallen annuals should be added to the compost. This is also a good time to grab any potted plants that need to move indoors for the winter.
- Mulch Perennials
Plants that will spend the colder months outside, including potted plants, should receive a layer of mulch for fertilization and insulation. Leaves can be used for this, too, and can also be added to flower beds for a nice winter blanket. Take care not to layer mulch over the tops of plants or up against them. As the leaves become wet and start to mold, they can also cause the plant to rot. If you have extra leaves, give your trees and shrubs a nice skirting of mulch as well. Though it will protect and promote growth in younger ones the most, the older ones will still benefit, too.
- Winterize the Irrigation System
In order to keep your irrigation system running properly, you’ll probably need to get it set up for winter as well. If you live in an area that doesn’t get very cold, you might be able to skip this step. However, if it freezes where you are, leaving water in the lines can lead to costly repairs. You’ll need to shut off the water to the system, remove the water from the lines, and shut down the timer to prevent excessive wear. If you aren’t familiar with the system enough to clear the lines, call an irrigation specialist for help.
It’s possible to prepare your lawn for winter with a single day of work, but it does take a considerable amount of work and dedication to do it right. Generally speaking, it takes about six hours of work-time for each 5,000 square feet, to complete all these steps. If your lawn is large, or you don’t have the time (or desire) to devote to getting it ready, bring in a professional. Knocking these few things out of the way will help your lawn spring back easier, and look healthier, when the colder months begin to fade, saving a whole lot of time and effort in the long run.