If there’s one thing everyone in the Porter house can agree on, it’s that fall is fun. This is the season for getting cozy, sharing delicious foods and watching the leaves turn.
Autumn is gorgeous — but it’s also the time to prepare for winter. So, even though we’re all thinking about pumpkins and costumes and hayrides, it’s essential to make time for some fall yard cleanup. Here are my top five tips for the season.
- Rake up and mow low.
Raking is the most obvious step on any fall to-do list. (And for kids, it can also be one of the most fun!) It’s important to rake your yard because leaves can actually smother and kill your grass. You might also want to consider composting your leaves. It’s as easy as creating a small pen out of chicken wire. Aerate the leaf pile once a week with a garden fork, and in the spring you’ll have the perfect compost for healthier lawns, shrubs and flower beds.
When you mow for the final time this season, it’s a good idea to cut lower than usual. About 1¼ inches is the recommended length to help protect your grass from disease. The short length also helps leaves to blow across your lawn instead of piling up.
- Make way for new growth.
Autumn is the time to get your trees and flowers ready for spring. Prune any dead branches from your trees and shrubs, and trim all of your hedges to keep your yard looking great.
As for your flowers, you should get rid of all the dead annuals and trim perennial foliage to the ground. Trimming your perennials will allow them to conserve energy at the roots, preparing them for next season.
- Take a look at your lawn tools.
Before winter comes, it’s a good idea to take a close look at your lawnmower, trimmer, pruners, shovels and other equipment. If you make any necessary repairs or replacements now, you’ll be ready when warmer weather returns.
To remove rust and dirt from any lawn tools, use a wire brush, and then wipe down the metal with light oil to protect it from corrosion. Smooth out any weathered, rough wooden handles with a medium-grit emery cloth and apply a coat of linseed oil for protection.
- Winterize your deck or patio.
If you have room in the garage, it’s smart to move outdoor furniture there once you know it’s not going to be in use until spring. Wipe your furniture down with a wet cloth — you can also use white vinegar or wood cleaner as necessary — and dry each piece before storing.
Sweep off your patio or deck, and use a mildew-removing solution if your deck needs it. The easiest way to do this is to use a garden sprayer to soak your deck with a solution of 3 quarts water, 1 quart oxygen bleach and ¼ cup ammonia-free liquid dishwasher detergent.
- De-gunk your gutters.
This might be the least enjoyable step on your fall to-do list, but your gutters are going to need attention at the end of the season, after your leaves have fallen. You’ll be glad you tackled this chore once spring comes — clogged gutters can lead to basement flooding as snow melts. Avoid that nightmare with a ladder, a pair of gloves and a trash bag.
After removing all the leaves, you can use a hose to flush out your gutters. This will also show you if you’ve got any leaks. If you do, patching is pretty easy. Just scrub around the hole with steel wool and cover it with metal flashing. You can use a putty knife to apply a gutter patch product to the flashing, and then press it firmly in place. Wipe up any excess adhesive and you’re done!
Now, it’s your turn — I’m sure my fellow Clean Geeks have some fall cleanup tips to add, and I hope to see them in the comments.