Fall Yard Cleanup in 10 Steps
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Temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing color, and the faint smell of pumpkin spice is wafting through the air – hello, fall! With the arrival of autumn, it can be tempting to pack it in and get ready to hibernate for the cooler months ahead. But don’t hang up those tools just yet! We have a fall yard cleanup checklist to tackle first.
Did you know that preparing your yard for the cold months ahead will help your lawn and garden thrive next spring? Spending the time to button up your yard this fall will pay off in spades – your grass will be lusher, your soil will have more nutrients and you can even avoid easily-prevented damage to your house from backed-up gutters. Check out our ten essential steps to set your yard up for success in the chilly winter months ahead.
Fallen leaves can help nourish your lawn – or suffocate the grass if left unattended. To keep your yard looking and feeling its best, you should mulch leaves the right way.
The key to using leaves for mulch is to ensure they’re in small enough pieces – about dime-sized should do the trick. If the leaf pieces are too big, it can prevent sunlight from reaching your grass and provide shelter for harmful pests. Good thing that breaking up leaves is a pretty effortless task!
Once you have a crisp leaf coat covering your yard, simply make a few passes with a mulcher or lawn mower to slice and scatter those yummy nutrients. Mulched leaves can add a natural layer of fertilization to your garden, flower beds, compost, and more – make sure the leaves have been mulched into super-fine pieces before you start sprinkling.
If you'd prefer to clear dead leaves from your yard, use a rake or leaf blower to gather them into large piles for bagging and composting. If you don’t compost yourself, check with your county or city to see if they run a composting program – they may even give you mulch in exchange.
Did you know cleaning your gutters is a frequently overlooked fall cleanup task? You want to keep your gutters clog-free all year to avoid water damage inside your house. Luckily, it should be a quick task if you routinely clean out gutters each season – especially with the Greenworks Universal Gutter Cleaning Kit.
Gutters control the flow of rain, snow, and sleet. While clear gutters allow water to flow away from your house in a steady and controlled manner, clogged gutters slow down this flow, potentially damaging your roof and foundation.
Timing-wise, make sure to clean out your gutters in late fall when most leaves have fallen. Leftover debris can freeze and cause ice damming or the gutters to detach. Regular maintenance is crucial for protecting your house and yard.
Your yard is a little bit like your hair – it’s better to gradually cut the grass shorter over time than chop it all off at once. Before the first frost of the season, mow your lawn a few times, adjusting the blade height to be slightly shorter with each mowing. The goal? A yard with the perfect balance of high and tight – about 2 - 2.5 inches long.
A word of caution: there is such a thing as the “wrong” cut heading into winter. Mowing your lawn too short in cold weather can cause your grass to go into shock, while grass cut too long can develop snow mold (yes, snow mold is a thing!). The timing of the first frost depends on your local climate, so keep an eye on weather apps and the local news for frost warnings in your area.
Mowing after a frost can also damage your lawn due to frozen moisture in the blades of grass - so if your yard is consistently covered in ice crystals when you wake up in the morning, it’s time to pack away your lawn mower for the season.
You’ve probably heard of thatch – but what is it? Thatch is a dense, tangled layer of roots, stems, and other grassy things that lives between the soil and the green grass you see on top. When maintained properly at about 1/2-inch thick, thatch acts as a regulating barrier that helps maintain consistent temperature and moisture for the soil. However, thatch can suffocate your lawn when left unattended and cause water to pool, keeping critical nutrients from reaching root systems.
Dethatching your soil is the best way to remove built-up thatch and foster a healthier lawn, especially if you have cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue or fine fescue. Though not needed every year (typically, you should use a dethatcher every five years or so), you should always check for signs that thatch has grown too thick. Indicators include water not being able to thoroughly soak into your lawn and the emergence of gray-brown spots. Though thatch occurs naturally and is an essential part of a healthy lawn, you can reduce its growth by ensuring not to over-mow, overwater or overseed.
Preventative actions such as weeding and composting in the fall makes your job much easier in the spring! After the final fall harvest, pull any weeds that might be lying in wait to emerge once the weather begins to warm.
Once your garden is clear of weeds, debris, and old veggies, spread a healthy layer of compost (you compost, right?) throughout your beds to prepare the soil for planting in the spring. Using a cultivator/tiller can help make this work quick, easy – and enjoyable!
Just as bears need to stuff themselves before hibernation, your lawn needs to be winterized with the proper nutrients to help it survive the harsh winter. Head to your local lawn and garden store to find the best fall lawn fertilizer for your climate. Ironically, a “winter guard” fertilizer is the most important fertilizer you use all year – even more important than your first springtime application!
Winterizer has a high nitrogen level to help feed your lawn throughout the winter months – so it emerges green, healthy and ready to grow in the spring. Trust us – it’s worth it! Winterizer packages might look confusing because they list nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratios – but that’s key to finding the right fit for your lawn. You’ll want to aim for about 2 - 2.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet to maximize root growth in the winter months.
To ensure the highest chance of survival through the winter, annual beds need an insulating layer of mulch added to their base before the first frost. Depending on the severity of your local climate, a 3-to-5-inch thick layer of mulch should do the trick.
For evergreens, trees, shrubs and roses, wait to add a layer of mulch until after the first frost. If mulch isn’t enough, cover plants with blankets, towels, sheets, tarps, or other materials for extra warmth at night. Remember, if you’re cold, they’re (probably) cold too!
Make sure to research your specific plants for best practices in the winter—some may need to come indoors to last the season. And while you're buttoning up your garden beds, take a quick pass with your string trimmer to ensure you have a crisp edge for your garden heading into winter.
Have you been eyeing up a few rogue branches all summer, wondering if they’re growing a little too close to your house? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get out the pole trimmer and chainsaw and tidy up those tree limbs. Cold weather and heavy snow can cause weak tree limbs to snap easily – potentially damaging your roof or siding. And remember – trimming branches on a nice fall day is a better – and safer! – option than an emergency trim in the middle of a blizzard. Take the time to trim any problematic branches that loom over your house, shed, electric lines or cars before the harsh weather sets in – it’s worth it.
While in Trim Mode, you can tackle any bushes that have grown unwieldy. A quick trim helps to keep your bushes, flowers and trees prepared for the harsh winter weather – and ensures that they’ll come back stronger than ever in the spring. A versatile hedge trimmer can help you get the job quickly for all those hard-to-reach spots.
Pressure washing keeps your outdoor spaces looking fresh while preventing the buildup of damaging mold and mildew. Plus, it’s so satisfying! Now is the time to get in one last power blast before the weather gets too cold – and with the Greenworks line of pressure washers, there’s a nozzle for every surface!
Round up those outdoor rugs and patio furniture first to rinse off all the summer dust, dirt and pollen. While waiting for your furniture to dry, use your pressure washer to clean off your driveway, deck, front porch, fence and anything else that strikes your fancy (swingset? Basketball hoop? Bikes? The possibilities are endless!). We even have portable pressure washers for cleaning fences, docks and perhaps even a muddy Greenworks Go-Kart.
Just make sure this task is knocked out before the freezing temperatures set in. Not only is it not safe to pressure wash in chilly weather, but it’s also dangerous – the surfaces can freeze and you can damage your pressure washer.
Now that your yard and house exterior are ready for winter, it’s time to put your tools to bed for a long winter’s nap. Store your tools indoors if possible, and clean off any noticeable dirt and debris to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. If you have battery-powered tools, store your batteries in a non-humid – and non-frozen! – environment. At Greenworks, we recommend our batteries and chargers stay above 41° Fahrenheit to maximize their lifespan and ability to hold a charge.
Congratulations – you’ve checked off all the items on your fall cleanup list! Rest easy knowing you’ve taken care of your yard and prepared it well for the months ahead. Bring it on, winter! We’re ready for you.