Taking care of your garden is a year round task and even in winter you want to make sure that large amounts of snow, debris and wind do not knock down your trellises, fences and cause damage you will need to repair in the spring.
However for most of us Fall is the last time that we will do any serious work in our gardens.
Early in the season we will be picking the last of our vegetables and later on we will do a final cleanup of leaves and debris before the snow comes.
In this HowTo we will build a checklist of some of the things you should do outside before it gets too cold.
Building Your Checklist
Every home is different and needs will change from year to year so as you begin to accomplish the tasks on your checklist add things you things you see that need care.
Cutting Your Lawn should continue late into the season. Early on you may have a few regular cuts and then as the weather gets colder your grass will begin to go dormant. If you use a bag attachment on your lawn mower you can collect leaves and debris right up until early winter but you will need to decide on a cutoff date when temperatures fall below 40f in the day.
Leaves that you can not collect with your bag attachment should be removed from your lawn every few days in the growing season then after the lawn goes dormant you do not want them to sit longer then about 10 days. This will reduce the possibility of mold growing and you want to collect leaves while they are dry so do so before a rain.
Watering your lawn, Trees and Shrubs should continue until temperatures fall below 75F on a regular basis. Watering should be reserved for new plants and should end about 2 weeks before you expect a frost. You do not need to water after the temperature is below 50F on a regular day. Fall rains will probably do this work for you.
Compost remaining plants in your garden and turn your compost pile into your main garden’s soil. This should happen in late October.
Remove all weeds from your vegetable and flower gardens but do not compost them. Grasses in your garden can be composted only if there is no seed on them. This is done in the summer when you pull small weeds and use them for ground cover in paths But by mid to late fall you really do not want to take a chance on introducing weed seed in your garden for next year.
In the last week of October / first week of November you want to inventory your tools and prepare them for winter storage.
Before the first frost you want to drain and store your garden hoses. Drain your irrigation systems with air pressure from a compressor with attachment. Remove any outside valves that attach to your hose bib.
Prepare your tools for storage by cleaning dirt and then oiling with a light spray oil like wd40. If you have a large amount of rust you should remove it and paint the tool with a good quality rust preventative spray paint.
Clean your gasoline power tools in the same way removing all grass from the bottom of your lawn mower by soaking with water and a nylon brush. Soaking is the key.. wet the bottom and walk away for 20 minutes then spray as much as you can off and wait another 20mins. Using a nylon brush will limit the damage to the paint under your lawn mower and that means less rust.
Remove the gasoline from your powertools and lawn mowers then start and run them dry this will reduce residue deposits next fall causing sticky throttles and hard starting tools.
Spray the blades with oil and store the lawnmower in a dry area in a shed or garage.
Protect or remove your garden lighting. Solar lights can be pulled up easily. If you have low voltage pathway lights you may want to install a bamboo tomato stake or flag to mark their location during winter shoveling.
Trees should be inspected for any damage to branches. Remove the damaged limbs by making smooth sharp cuts about a quarter inch from main growth. Pruning dormant bushes and trees will lessen the possibility of a branch breaking in a winter storm and causing more damage to the plant or your home.
This is just the beginning of your checklist.
You will need to close up your pools and remove leaves from your gutters along with dozens of other things.
If you see wood or other items that need repair do this now before winter makes them worse. Paint your door jams and window casements and caulk where needed.
Remember keep looking as you work and your list will expand until you find it gets too cold to complete your jobs before the snow comes. This is ok … there is always next spring.