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Preparing for Winter: A Fall Checklist for Your Lawn and Garden

Come fall, Mother Nature gets busy shutting down your lawn and garden. You can work alongside her, chipping in with tasks that will settle in your flora for a long winter’s nap and bring the green back in all its glory come spring.

This checklist will guide you through the steps of preparing your lawn and garden for the cooler months. We also made it an easy download for you to print and use.

Fall lawn with leaves
How to prepare your lawn for winter

The last heat of summer may have left your lawn looking more like a desert than a lush golf course. No matter how it looks, your lawn is hard at work during the fall stocking up on nutrients and energy to get through winter and prepare for spring. Here’s how you can help:

Cut grass short

Gradually lower your mower height as the mowing season winds down, finishing off with a nice, close cut. Shorter blade height helps prevent snow mold or fungus from developing.

Fertilize

Grass growth may be slowing, but the roots are busy as ever. Spread a good of fertilizer to help roots grow deeper, so they start spring strong.

Eliminate weeds

Like grass roots, weed roots are best hit in the fall for the spring lawn you want. Apply weed killer before snow falls to help keep the weeds from returning come spring.

Seed bare spots

Fall’s cooler temperatures are perfect for nurturing new grass. If you’ve treated for weeds, wait three to four weeks before planting seed.

Aerate

Pulling out plugs of soil with a lawn aerator helps a compacted lawn loosen up, letting grass roots spread out and grow deeper and stronger.

Remove leaves

Get those leaves raked into a pile worthy of hours of play before you bag them up or spread them for composting. You also can recycle their goodness by mowing and mulching them.

Fall garden flowers
How to prepare your garden for winter

Fruit, vegetable and flower production should be winding down, unless you plant cool-season crops. But that doesn’t mean your work is done! Help your garden get its beauty rest, so when it wakes it looks its best.

Divide and plant

Fall is a great time to divide spring- and summer-blooming perennials. Use a sharp spade to break them into smaller clumps that you can plant in new spots.

Fall’s cooler temperatures are ideal for planting or transplanting trees and shrubs. Pansies, mums and ornamental kale can also flourish in the cooler temperatures, giving you a burst of color as the rest of the outdoor world turns brown. And don’t forget to plant your spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

Keep watering

Send your perennials, trees and flowering shrubs to bed with a good drink to help them get through the dry winter.

Dig up

Tender bulbs like canna, dahlia and gladiolus don’t like the winter any more than Florida snowbirds. Dig them up and store them in a cool, dry spot such as a basement. And don’t forget to harvest your root crops, like carrots, potatoes, turnips and beets, before the ground freezes.

Cut back

You can help mums and perennials make it through winter by cutting them back after a few hard frosts. When the foliage has died, cut away any parts that are diseased and trim the stems to 3–4 inches. Pull dead annuals and vegetables, and add them to your compost pile. Be careful to toss diseased plants and weeds in the trash so they don’t contaminate your compost.

Pull weeds

While weeds do fade away with cooler temperatures, pulling them in the fall eliminates reseeding and spreading when they return in the spring.

Till the soil

Gently turn the soil to rouse grubs of Japanese beetles or other insects that plan to burrow underground, so they don’t grow into a problem come spring.

Feed and cover

Feed the soil all winter by digging compost in (shred and use those leaves you’ve raked!). Tuck the garden, beds and over-wintering plants in with a blanket of mulch (those leaves come in handy again!).

Want to move your gardening inside? Here’s a starter guide on container gardening.

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