Cooler days, slightly chilly evenings . . . Wish the summer of 2017, had more sunshine than rain. Now the leaves already have lost their glossy green gleam and some are already turning brown and falling onto lawns and curbs.

The change in season also starts a list of chores for homeowners that, while boring, have to be done to ensure a healthy yard in the coming spring and an indoors protected from winter’s frosty breath.

Following are some suggestions for home and yard to-do lists.

Let’s start from the outside in.

Your lawn

Leaf cleanup is a necessary but never-ending battle. Leaves left scattered for the winter will smother the lawn. Don’t worry, however, about getting every last leaf out of the plant beds. As they breakdown, leaves can help insulate plants and provide them with valuable nutrients.

As for what do to with all the leaves you’ve raked, remember to recycle them in your own compost pile or at a town recycling center. If you are using the leaves on your own compost pile, either grind them up or run them over with a lawn mower to speed decomposition. To move large piles of leaves, I recommend piling them onto a tarp and dragging them to their destination? Be it compost pile or trash bag.

Once the leaves are collected;

Early in November, It’s highly recommended to fertilize the lawn with a high phosphorus mixture to promote root growth over the winter, so the grass will green up sooner come spring. Fall is also a great time to fertilize trees and shrubs.  It’s not recommended to prune ornamental trees and shrubs, as they can contract dieback and suffer from winter desiccation.

Fertilize before the first frost to provide nutrients for the winter months. Aerate for good root development. Cut your lawn one last time before winter or until it stops growing and can be kept 2 to 2½ inches to prevent matting, disease and rodent damage. When you are done mowing, run the lawn mower itself until it runs out of gas or drain the gas from the mower, clean the blades and put it in protected storage.  Gas left to sit in the tank over the winter will gum up the carburetor so it won’t run as well next spring. Also, change the oil, grease the engine and pull and inspect the spark plug. Before you replace it, place several drops of five-weight oil in the hole and pull the start cord several times to lubricate the engine so it won’t rust. In the spring, you’ll only have to add gas and start mowing again.

Over seed your lawn when necessary. If there are bare spots larger than a softball, seed those areas from early September through mid-October.

Kill the weeds now to minimize weed growth in the spring. October is a great time to get good weed control going.

Your yard

Early fall is a great time to plant. The soil is still warm enough for roots to grow, but the weather is beginning to cool, so you won’t have to water as much.

This is also a wonderful time for plant bargains. Check out your local garden centre to see what you can find to spruce up your garden for next year.  Even if they all died, you won’t be out that much cash.

Now is the time to plant spring flower bulbs and to lift bulbs that cannot overwinter such as dahlias.

Trim trees (hiring a professional is a good idea) if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.

Rake away all debris and edible vegetation away from the foundation.

Make sure your snow blower is cleaned, gassed up and ready to go.

Finally, it’s a good idea to track down, dust off and inspect rakes and snow shovels. Replace them if they are worn.

Your home

Fall yard clean-up starts with the gutters, which requires setting up a ladder to reach them. Remember to always have someone holding the bottom of the ladder and don’t try to stretch that extra two or three feet. Get down and move the ladder! For those who don’t like ladders, there are a couple of options. First, you can have gutter guards installed to keep leaves out. Second, there are leaf blower extensions that can reach up into the gutter and blow leaves out. Either way, you’ll need to be sure that the joints where the gutter meets the downspouts are cleaned out.

Make sure gutters are secure and clean. While cleaning gutters as much as possible before snow hits may not prevent ice dams, it doesn’t hurt to keep this part of your home maintained.

Speaking of ice dams . . . make sure there is proper insulation in your attic to prevent snow melting on the roof, pouring into the gutter and refreezing (the process that creates the dams). If you have an overhanging porch, call a roofer and electrician about adding warming cables to the lip of the roof.

It’s easier to prevent dams than get rid of them once they are 4 inches thick, dragging down the gutter and leaking inside to destroy walls and ceilings.

Once they are clean, take a hose and pour some water into your gutters and watch where it goes. Do you need extensions to direct the water away from your foundation and prevent leaks? When diverting water, be sure to avoid driveway and walkways, which could ice over and become hazards in the winter.

Other chores

Inspect your home’s foundation and seal entry points to keep small animals from seeking the warmth of the indoors. Seal any cracks.

Inside your home, install and/or test smoke- and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s a good idea to place a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace.

Have your furnace inspected and cleaned before cold weather hits. It will not only save you from a chilly night with a broken furnace, it will be less expensive to have it done before the height of furnace season.

Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.

Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.

Drain air-conditioning pipes. If your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.

Use weather stripping around doors and windows to prevent cold air from entering.

Switch (probably in late September) screens to storm windows.

Chimney

Make sure the cap on the top of your chimney is secure. You really don’t want critters climbing down and making your house their home.

If the chimney hasn’t been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.

Buy firewood.

Inspect the damper to make sure it opens and closes properly.

On the Water Front
Have an irrigation system?  Be sure that it is cleared of water so it won’t freeze up and damage pipes. If you do not, drain your hoses by laying them on a downward slope and pulling them slowly toward you, coiling as you go. Once they’re coiled, tie and store them in your garage or shed, head to the basement and shut off the water to your outdoor spigots. On the pipe, in between the shut-off and the spigot, you’ll find a weep valve that you can open and drain into a bucket. These steps will prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

Let’s not forget the Birds
This may be one of the most enjoyable fall activity is setting up bird feeders. After all the fall yard chores are done, there is nothing better than sitting back with a hot chocolate and watching the birds fly by.

And then comes Snow!
There is nothing more frustrating than having your snowblower not start when the first snow storm hits. If you’re more of the DIY shoveling type, you may want to double check that your shovels are where you left them and in good condition. They have a funny habit of growing legs and walking away over the year.

Do yourself a favor: Clip or print out this story right now and put it somewhere safe (visible of course). Very soon, it will seem pertinent, if not urgent.

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