With a little preventative maintenance in the fall your lawn and property will be in great shape in the spring. Here is a list of ten things you can do to make your life easier when things begin to get green again.
The biggest chore in late autumn is getting the lawn ready for the winter season. You should mow your lawn right up to the time it quits growing in the late fall. The grass should be cut to a level of two inches at last cutting. A good sign it has quit growing is the absence of lawn clippings when you run the mower. If it is higher than two inches, winter winds and wet weather will flatten the grass, bending it over and causing it to retain moisture, which can lead to bacterial growth and mold, damaging the roots. If the grass is too short, the lawn will suffer from drying winter winds, and can be damaged by the sun. Always remove any leaves and debris from the lawn. Leaves left lying on your lawn all winter long can prevent water from reaching the grass, or will trap too much moisture. This causes the grass to rot and die before spring.
Now is the time to fertilize the lawn. Look for fertilizers high in nitrogen. You may also consider a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen, but higher in phosphorus and potassium. By fertilizing in late fall, you will encourage lush growth in the spring.
Clean up the lawn mower. Wash and dry it, removing caked on dirt, lawn clippings, and grease. Remove any caked on grass from the mower deck, and inspect the blade for damage. Determine if it should be sharpened or replaced before spring. Fill the tank to capacity, and add a product such as Sta-Bil or other comparable brands, following manufacturer instructions. run the mower for a short period to insure that the fuel stabilizer reaches all parts of the fuel system. Putting you mower up on blocks during winter months is a good idea, also. It prevents flat spots from wearing in the rubber.
Be careful in pruning trees late in the year. Many ornamental trees such as azalea, dogwood, forsythia, redbud and rhododendron set their buds for blooms in the late fall, and pruning them can destroy next season's blooms. Do remove any obviously dead branches.
Thoroughly drain all water hoses, coil them, and store in a dry area. if using a hose reel, insure that all water is drained from the hose to prevent freezing and cracking during cold weather. Drain all faucets and valves, and turn off the water supply to them from the basement if you can. Turn over empty outside containers to prevent water collection and freezing, and store all birdbaths for the winter.
Clean the barbecue grill thoroughly if you do not plan on using it during the winter months. Cover with a good grill cover, and secure the bottom to prevent the wind from taking it away. If you have mice that like to nest in the winter, put dryer sheets and bay leaves in the grill under the cover. It keeps them away.
Check your concrete driveway for any cracks that may have shown up during the summer months. If left unsealed, water will enter them, it will freeze, and you'll get a nasty surprise in the spring. Use a sealing putty, found at most hardware stores, to seal the cracks and avoid winter damage. You can also use asphalt and concrete to fill these cracks if you desire.