It looks like winter is going to arrive after all — there was some doubt with all of the lingering heat we have had.
There are some things you can do to get ready for winter. These tips also will make it a little easier to get started next spring.
Keep mowing the grass as long as it is growing. I have heard some people say they like to cut it shorter in the late fall, but that is not right. If anything it should be cut about ½ to 1 inch taller. But it is perfectly fine to keep it at the height you have, assuming you are not scalping the lawn at your mower’s lowest setting. If there is a light covering of leaves, just mow them as well to add a little compost to the soil over the winter.
Heavy layers of leaves will deprive a lawn of needed sunlight and prevent moisture from penetrating to the grassroots. Do not allow those leaves to lay there very long. At this time of year we need to rake regularly. Once again, light layers of leaves can be chopped up by the lawn mower.
If you are done watering the flowers and vegetable gardens, be sure to store your hoses properly for the winter. Disconnect the hose from the tap to allow the tap to drain. Stretch out the hose to its full length with one end lower. This will allow the hose to drain while you coil it up for winter storage. Leaving water in a hose can cause it to rupture in the winter when the water freezes.
Take the containers you grew summer flowers in to a safe place for the winter. It is best to empty and wash the pots when you are finished with them for the fall. A good cleaning now will leave them ready for use in the spring. Turn the pots upside down if you are keeping them outside so they do not fill up with water. Flower pots, especially clay pots, if left filled with soil will collect and hold water. When the water freezes the pot will very likely crack. Plastic pots are less likely to crack this way, but it can happen. Check each pot before you store it to decide if it is in a good enough condition to use next year. Discard and plan to replace any pots that are not up to standard.
Many of us will be planting and otherwise digging in the garden and landscape for a while longer, planting bulbs or woody perennials for example. But, others are done for the year. Either way, take some time to prepare your tools for storage. Clean all the soil from the metal surfaces and apply a light coating of oil to prevent rust. Inspect the handles to see if they need to be replaced. Since for many of us the pruning season is just getting started, we will oil and sharpen out cutting tools, and maybe replace the blades on pruning saws. For those who are putting away their cutting tools, be sure to clean, sharpen and oil them before storing.
Battery powered power tools have been getting popular lately. I enjoy using my cordless electric chainsaw. Be sure to read the owner’s manual to see what is needed to properly store your item.
There may be some oil or other lubricant that will need to be applied to moving parts to make sure those parts move when needed. By all means, take the batteries out, give them a full charge, then store them indoors where they will not freeze. The batteries should never be exposed to temperatures below 40 degrees according to many of the owner manuals. Remember, those batteries can cost almost as much at the machine itself, so you want them to last as long as possible.
Some people typically put gasoline powered equipment in the shed and don’t think about it until next spring. Then it usually doesn’t start. A little extra attention now will help in April. Put in fresh gasoline. Add just a little fuel stabilizer that is formulated for storage. Be sure to follow directions for the stabilizer; adding too much will damage the engine. Run the machine for 10 minutes or so to get the treated fuel into the internal engine parts. Maybe once a month in the winter, just start the motor and let it run for a few minutes. People who have electric generators have learned that about 30 minutes of exercise, once a month, will keep their machine ready for when it is needed.
Finally, pick up some good books on gardening. You will need something to do this winter when the weather is too bad to go outside.
Enjoy your garden.
For questions or suggestions for this column, email email@example.com.