Like it or not, here in the midwest winter is coming, full force. For what seems like an eternity, cold weather and frozen flakes fall from the sky. Now, I personally love winter. It's not just a time to regroup and prepare for the upcoming landscape season, but I also like to enjoy the outdoors in the fresh fallen snow. To help you prepare for the cold weather months, here are 10 things to get done before winter.
1. Fall Leaf Clean Up
There's nothing more annoying than trying to shovel snow with frozen leaves underneath. An easy way to take care of your leaves is to mulch them up with your mower. Not only does this make it so there is no haul away, but creates a nice organic compost for you lawn come spring. If you hate dealing with leaves your own, you can hire a contractor to come haul them away. A typical leaf clean up cost anywhere from $150-$500 depending on your location and the size of your yard. Free up some of your precious free time and get the job done. It's a win-win!
2. Prune Shrubs, Perennials, and Ornamental grasses
Now, there is some debate on when is the best time to prune shrubs and cut back ornamental grasses. We prune shrubs twice a year, once in mid summer and again in the fall after leaves have fallen. Some people elect to keep their grasses until spring for some winter foliage, others cut them down in the fall. We will typically ask our customers what their preference is, however most prefer them trimmed back in the fall. Perennials should be pulled and cut back during fall leaf clean up to promote spring growth.
3. Clean out gutters
Fall brings leaves...and rain. Those two do not work harmoniously together. It is important to keep your gutters free of debris to allow water to flow through freely. Also, be sure downspout extensions are clear and directing water away from your home and walkways. Water will find its way into any crack and crevice. Water running off onto walkways can freeze causing a slip hazard as well as cause damage to paved areas from freeze-thaw. Having gutters and extensions working properly is essential to ensure the snow melt and constant rains brought in the spring won't cause you any trouble.
4. Winterize your irrigation system
Protect your investment and have you irrigation system blown out. This can be done if you have a big enough air compressor and the right fittings, however, this really is one of those jobs that is best left to the professionals. This is a simple process that typically can be scheduled in advance. A contractor will come out and blow out the entire system. This service usually takes about an hour and costs anywhere from $100-$250.
5. Winterize summer equipment
Ensure your equipment will be ready when snow melts. Winterizing your summer equipment is a simple process. Remove or stabilize the fuel. If your mower has a battery, disconnect the battery to prevent it from draining due to the colder temperatures. Scrape the grass off the mower decks and weed whacker heads to prevent rust from forming due to moisture. Clean and lubricate your equipment to ensure that come spring, nothing is bound up and your ready to roll.
6. Empty your flowerpots
Repurpose the soil in your flowerpots by adding them to existing garden beds. Soil left in pots over winter can freeze and crack the pots. If you want to keep the soil over winter bring pots inside or store soil in separate container.
7. Disconnect and blow out garden hoses
Be sure to disconnect and blow out garden hoses. Hoses left with water in them can split and burst, losing the hose all together. Hoses left hooked to the spigot can create a disaster. Water freezes and in extreme temperatures and hoses left hooked up can cause the water line attached to the spigot to burst creating a water leak inside the home.
8. Get your snow blower ready
It happens all the time. Our busy lives keep us from being prepared sometimes, especially here in Michigan. One day its 50* and sunny and the next there's 6" of wet heavy snow. Dont get caught unprepared. Pick a good day, preferably earlier in the fall and take out the snow blower. Empty the gas if any was left over from last year and refill with new fuel. Clean or change the spark plugs. Check the air and fuel filters and change as necessary. Lastly, when starting and letting your machine run, add some fuel treatment such as Seafoam to clean out the fuel system. Do these simple things to ensure that your equipment is ready for battle come snow fall.
9. Make sure outdoor lights are working properly
Just before winter is a great time to go through your landscape lighting system as well as ensuring your outdoor house lights are working properly. Winter brings shorter days and more time in the dark. Be sure all your lights are working to ensure your safety as well as giving your home a beautiful illuminated exterior in the winter months.
10. Purchase di-icers
Lastly, purchase any de-icers you may need to throw on your driveway and walkways to keep them clean and safe to walk on. A simple bag of rock salt only costs about $3 but be aware of your surroundings. Rock salt can damage landscapes, be harmful to pets and animals, and cause ground water pollution. A Good alternative is Ice-melt products such as Calcium Chloride or Magnesium Chloride. These products are a bit more expensive when bought by the bag at $7-12 for a 50# bag, but they are safer on landscapes and animals, as well as the Earth. We are currently switching our company to liquid de-icer. We pride ourselves on reducing winter damage to landscapes and doing our part for the environment by causing less water runoff pollution.