The first day of Autumn marks the time of year to start preparing for winter in Northern Michigan. With the threat of snow a possibility in any of the “BER” months, it is best to get an early start.
That’s exactly what the neighbors are doing, and it's making me feel a bit behind!
As for the winter weather (in case you don’t know this from experience), it really sucks putting away the outdoor furniture while it’s snowing. So let’s make sure we are all well prepared for the possibility of old man winter showing up early, okay?
Fall Clean-up Checklist
Besides putting away the lawn furniture, you will want to tuck your lawn away for the long winter ahead by first, raking it.
Although some people think it’s a great idea to leave fallen leaves on the lawn in hopes they will feed the lawn, it is in fact, quite the opposite. Decomposing leaves are very hard on the lawn you have nurtured throughout the summer months.
Not only will leaves smother the grass beneath a blanket of color, their decomposition could potentially cause disease too. This means more grass seed to plant next spring, and more nurturing away those ugly brown spots. So do what you can to prepare if for winter by first cleaning up.
2. Mow and Fertilize
Next, your lawn will need a good mowing and fertilizer application before it goes dormant for the winter. Begin mowing your lawn shorter than usual making it the shortest just before winter.
Feed your lawn twice in the fall, 6 to 8 weeks apart and take this opportunity to eliminate problem weeds by making one feeding a weed & feed application.
3. Drain irrigation systems
There’s nothing worse than having to dig up your sprinkler system in the spring due to burst waterlines. Save yourself some hassles in the spring by blowing out the lines before they freeze. Likewise, drain all of your hoses and wind them up neatly for winter storage so they can be counted on again next year.
4. Power-wash Decks and Clean the Gutters
Don’t let mold take hold after those moist summer nights. Blast away the green fuzz before the winter months and lighten the spring-cleaning list.
There’s nothing worse than a frozen gutter getting ripped off your roof due to an ice dam, so don’t forget to give the gutters a good cleaning too! Make sure that all precipitation will flow freely through those troughs, and the drains are pointing away from your house and walkways.
5. Prune the Dead Stuff
After all the leaves have fallen, it's a good time to look over your trees and shrubs and remove any dead or diseased branches. Waiting until the tree has gone dormant for winter will help freshly pruned wounds to heal up nicely by the time it blooms again in spring.
Likewise, don’t let disease take hold through the winter months and spread to healthy sections of your garden. Prevent it now by pruning away any bad stuff and making sure to dispose of it properly.
6. Plant spring bulbs
Fall is the perfect time to plant spring flower bulbs. Popping up through the last bits of snow-cover, these colorful spring blooms will brighten those last winter days. So get your Crocus, Tulips and Hyacinths planted now.
Weeding around your flowers and bushes will stop the nasty buggers from germinating and taking over your beds next spring. Take it from someone whose lazy tactics have caused hours of laborious weed digging in the spring… do it in the fall when those devils are easier to pull out!
8. Split Perennials
If you love long lines of perky perennials such as Hosta’s, daisies, and lilies lining your fence-line, then now is the time to split and replant them. Replanting cuttings in early fall will allow time for the roots to take hold before the cold, winter months ahead.
Fall is also a great time of year to move perennials because you can see the best areas to plant them. If you wait till spring - when nothing is popping up yet - there’s more of a chance you’ll accidently dig something up. Save yourself some time and money by doing this task while you can still see where everything is taking up residence.
9. Trim back rosebush stems & Insulate tender perennials
Trimming rosebushes does not mean to chop it down to the ground. I leave the stalks just long enough to fit under a breathable rosebush cover and wait to clip the dead sprigs off in spring. This helps to protect the tender root from freezing out and DYING!
If you don’t have a breathable cover for your rosebush (or other tender perennials), cozy them up for the winter with at least 8 inches of leaves, soil or mulch to protect the root from freezing out.
10. Clean up Bird Feeders
Make sure the hummingbirds have their last bit of fuel as they head south by keeping your feeders out until it frosts. Then give them a good scouring before putting them away for the winter.
Whether you’re planning to keep feeding the birds through the winter or not, now is the time to clean them up.
If you are NOT planning to feed the birds through winter, don’t wait too long to put the feeders away. As birds find a food source, they hunker down for the long winter expecting the feeders to be filled regularly. So if you don’t want to fill them during blizzard season, then it’s time to put them away.
11. Garden Clean-up
Whether you’ve had a full, in-the-ground type garden, a portable garden, or patio garden, it’s time to put things away for the cold months ahead.
Make yourself a bucket of soapy water and get to work scrubbing out emptied pots and gardening tools in preparation for spring planting season. Believe me, you don’t want to start your new seedlings out in dirty, or possibly diseased pots. Get everything clean and pristine to make sure your new spring plants get off to a good start.
Since harvesting vegetables over the past month, I’ve had lots of questions about what to do with the old soil. The biggest question being, can it be reused? The quick answer is yes, so long as the plant that was using it didn’t have any type of bug infestation or fungus. The long answer is, you will need to revitalize used soil by adding nutrients to it, and the best way to do this is to put soil and chopped up plant clippings into a compost pile.
Composting is a great way to save money in the spring, by having your own supply of black-dirt for planting.
Slow but sure, I’m getting through this list and hoping I don’t have to add to it!
How much have you gotten ready for winter so far?
Thanks so much for reading!
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Beaulieu, David, October 14, 2019, Why Is It Necessary To Rake Leaves Off The Lawn? https://www.thespruce.com/why-necessary-to-rake-leaves-off-the-lawn-2132361
O’Sullivan, Penelope, September 8, 2010, When to prune trees and shrubs? Wait till after the leaves fall. https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Gardening/diggin-it/2010/0928/When-to-prune-trees-and-shrubs-Wait-till-after-the-leaves-fall
Scott’s, 2020, Important Lawn Maintenance for Fall, https://www.scotts.com/en-us/library/lawn-care-basics/important-lawn-maintenance-projects-fall?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhKzI6Z-C7AIVjYbACh1jDwo4EAAYASAAEgJ4-fD_BwE&cmp=kid/Lawns/Google_SEM/NonBrand/G_Lawns_NonBrand_Fall_Lawn_Maintenance_Project_Article/Fall_Lawn_Maintenance_Project_Article&s_kwcid=AL!4676!3!466922488247!b!!g!!fall%20lawn%20work&ef_id=EAIaIQobChMIhKzI6Z-C7AIVjYbACh1jDwo4EAAYASAAEgJ4-fD_BwE:G:s&s_kwcid=AL!4676!3!466922488247!b!!g!!fall%20lawn%20work