As winter approaches, it’s time to prepare your yard for fall. A fall clean-up lays the groundwork for a beautiful springtime lawn. Tend to the landscaping ahead of the colder months with these fall clean up checklist items. Trust me, your springtime yard will thank you!
Summer is wrapping up, but that doesn’t mean your yard work chores are over. In fact, there’s a lot to do before the snow, ice, and colder temperatures arrive.
As the seasons change, it’s important to take a few steps to make things a little easier on yourself and your yard before the new growing season begins.
When you take the time to prepare your yard for the upcoming season and do a thorough fall clean up, you’ll be greeted by a healthier, happier yard in springtime.
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This fall clean up checklist contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t recommend wholeheartedly. Read my full disclosure here.
There are a few key areas to focus on that will make spring a blooming and beautiful season to enjoy. Tackle these basic fall clean up tasks for a more bountiful and beautiful landscaping next spring.
Fall Clean Up: Video
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Fall Yard Clean Up: Checklist
1. Rake or Blow Leaves
Before the nasty weather sets in, make sure to clear your lawn and landscaped areas of dead leaves. It may sound obvious, but neglecting the piles of leaves in your yard during heavy rains or snow can permanently damage the grass, which is expensive and time-consuming to repair. Plus, piles of leaves create a haven for pests, like bugs, mice, and other small critters.
To get the job done fast, grab your leaf blower to blow the leaves to your collection spot. Alternatively, if your mower has a collection bag, use it to collect all of the leaves that have fallen on the ground. This tackles two chores at once: mowing and raking!
Then, dispose of your yard waste, or add it to your compost pile.
If the ground is already frozen, it’s better to use a leaf blower anyway. Walking on frozen grass can cause damage and lead to brown spots after the soil thaws.
2. Fall Clean Up in the Vegetable Garden
Don’t forget about the vegetable garden! Even after you harvested all of your delicious crops, you still need to tidy things up a bit.
Start by removing any trellises, tomato cages, bean stakes, and similar items. Clean them up really well and store them in their proper place. This will prevent them from becoming damaged while exposed to the elements. Plus, they will be ready to use for the next planting season.
The next step of the fall garden cleanup is to remove and dispose of any dead or spent plants from the garden, such as dead or diseased plants, weeds, old fruits or vegetables, and anything else that doesn’t belong.
3. Fall Clean Up for Flower Beds
If you have a flower bed, be sure to remove any annuals that are fading away. If possible, save some of their seeds to plant later in the year for easy curb appeal!
Trim back any perennials so they can return lush and healthy in their next season. You can also take this time to divide up any spring-blooming perennials and overcrowded clusters of flowers as needed.
Dividing up over-crowded clusters creates more space in your flower beds which means more abundant and beautiful blooms to enjoy. Wait to divide any fall-blooming perennials for later in the spring.
Don’t forget to add a layer of mulch around any fragile perennials. Do this just before the first freeze to protect their roots, suppress weeds, and prevent soil erosion.
This is also a great time to plant bulbs such as tulips and daffodils that bloom in the spring.
4. Trim Dead Branches from Trees and Shrubs
The best time to prune trees is during their dormant season – usually when all the leaves have fallen during the late fall and early winter.
If you live in a particularly cold climate, snow and ice can easily take down a dead limb. You don’t want to be the reason the whole neighborhood is without power! If you are able to (safely) trim away branches, you can do this with a pole pruner (we love this one!) or schedule professional tree trimmers to get the job done.
Use hedge clippers to cut back any dead branches on shrubs or evergreens.
5. Clean Out Rain Gutters
If your gutters don’t have shields or covers, removing debris from these areas is absolutely necessary!
Twigs, leaves, and other debris weigh down gutters and can cause water to overflow, pool, or freeze during the winter which can cause them to come crashing down.
This should be completed right after the last of the leaves have fallen – usually later in the fall. As you are clearing out the gutters, make note of any necessary repairs before winter sets in.
This gutter cleaning tool will definitely come in handy when it is time to clean them out!
6. Apply Winter Lawn Food
Fall is the ideal time to fertilize your lawn so it will have all the nutrients to survive freezing temperatures and so it will flourish in the spring.
Usually applied after the last mow of the fall season, winter fertilizer encourages food storage and a stronger root system for a thicker, healthier lawn in the spring. This keeps your grass healthy, even during the dormant season.
Depending on where you live, your grass might not go dormant at all. Regardless, fertilizing your lawn will help your grass regain its strength after being zapped by the summer heat.
7. Mow the Lawn
As long as your grass is still growing, it’s important to continue caring for your lawn. Once the temperatures begin to drop, lower the mower’s blades to the lowest setting for the final mow of the season.
Keeping the grass trimmed short during its dormant season prevents disease, which has a harder time setting in with shorter blades of grass.
Be sure to use caution as you prepare for the final mow. Pay attention to the growth rate of your lawn throughout the season. Cutting the grass too early could harm the grass as most of the nutrients are from the tops of the grass blades.
If the grass is still growing rapidly and warmer temperatures have potential, hold off on the final, shorter trim.
8. Winterize Tools and Small Equipment
Caring for your tools is one of the most important things you can do as a DIYer. Allowing dirt, debris, and other yuck to collect on your tools is a recipe for damaged and broken tools.
Whether you are cleaning gardening tools, wrenches, or other pieces of equipment, take the time to clean them up before putting them away for the season.
Here are a few quick steps to clean up and winterize your tools and small yard equipment:
- Remove dirt and debris with a water hose, brush, or putty knife. Rinse away grass clippings and dirt with soap and water if needed.
- Make sure all tools are properly dried before storing them for the winter.
- Flush out fuel from any gas-powered equipment or use something like Sta-Bil Storage to clean the fuel in the machine fresh while being stored (for up 24 months).
- Use a Fogging Oil to prevent rust and corrosion on the internal engine components of machines, like your lawn mower.
- Check for worn or missing parts that need to be replaced. Replace them ahead of the spring.
- Change fuel filters on lawn mowers and other pieces of equipment. Check parts to be replaced.
- Coat metal tools and blades with Sta-Bil Rust Stopper to avoid rusting and sticking before storing them for the winter.
9. Blow Out Sprinkler System
Blowing out your sprinkler system is a vital part of preparing your lawn for winter.
A sprinkler blowout is a process of pushing pressurized air through the sprinkler system lines expelling all remaining water from the pipes. This prevents water from freezing inside of the pipes, causing corrosion, rot, and bursting pipes.
All you need is a simple adapter, 4-6-gallon air compressor, and a hose long enough to reach from the sprinkler control valve to the compressor. The entire process of winterizing your sprinkler system is in this YouTube video and this guide.
Here’s a quick run-down of the basic steps:
- First, drain the sprinkler valve and connect the air compressor. Turn the water off and manually drain the excess water from the sprinkler’s water supply line.
- Connect the adapter to the water supply line and the air compressor hose.
- Then, manually run each zone of your sprinkler system individually. When the water has stopped coming through, turn off the system, button it up, and leave the sprinkler water line off for the winter.
If you are installing your own sprinkler system, here are plenty of tips for installing a sprinkler valve manifold and other tips that are good to know before you begin preparing your landscaping for the fall and winter season.
10. Cover Water Hose Bibs
Just like blowing out a sprinkler system prevents frozen pipes, so does covering your water hose bibs.
When the temperature drops below freezing, any unprotected water pipes can burst, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Furthermore, busted pipes are also difficult to repair during the winter due to the freezing temperatures.
To prevent frozen pipes, cover your outdoor water faucets (or spigots) with a bib, which is a styrofoam cap that traps warm air around the faucet. Make sure to do this before the temperature dips below freezing and definitely before the first frost.
While this isn’t a fail-safe solution, it will certainly aid in preventing the hassle of flooding, leaking, and repairing busted pipes.
11. Perimeter Check Around the Exterior
I always encourage readers to check the exterior of their homes and properties for repairs at the end of every season.
No matter what kind of climate you live in, weather elements and nature, in general, can cause areas to deteriorate around your home. These regular checks prevent sky-high heating and cooling bills and catch necessary repairs early.
Do a walk-around inspection of your home and property. Check for cracks in brick, siding, and stone. Take note of any areas that need re-caulking or sealing. Repair any places that might let bugs or small critters in your home.
12. Store or Cover Outdoor Furniture
Outdoor furniture is expensive, so you want to be sure you are taking the best care possible. While it is intended to live outdoors, harsh winter weather can wreak havoc on your beautiful outdoor space.
While we love enjoying our backyard well into the fall season, we make sure to properly cover our furniture before inclement weather hits.
Make sure to bring in all furniture cushions and fabric-covered items that could be damaged in the snow, rain, and ice. You can also apply a protective sealant for extra assurance.
Store these in your basement, garage, or shed if you have the space.
Use furniture covers to protect the furniture you can’t bring inside. This will protect it from rust, staining, and other damage. Even furniture made from rod-iron and plastic will incur damage if left exposed to the elements.
Are you ready for winter, yet?
Refer to this fall clean up checklist for a smooth winter and a beautiful, lush springtime lawn!
- Rake or blow leaves to prevent damage to grass during the winter months.
- Clean up the vegetable garden by removing and disposing of dead plants and putting away any trellis or tomato cages or similar items.
- Clean up flower beds by removing annuals and cutting back perennials.
- Trim dead branches from trees and shrubs.
- Clean out rain gutters.
- Apply winter lawn food to your lawn so it will flourish in the spring.
- Mow the lawn as long as it keeps growing.
- Winterize tools and small equipment so it will be ready and working when you need again next year.
- Blow out your sprinkler system to avoid busted pipes.
- Cover water hose bibs to prevent frozen water pipes.
- Check the perimeter around the exterior of your home to see if there are any repairs that need to be made.
- Store or cover your outdoor furniture to protect it from the winter weather.