Your Ultimate Fall Maintenance Guide

Anne of Green Gables once said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” But I’m guessing she never had to clean out any gutters. While October’s mild temperatures and gentle sunshine does make a person glad to be alive, those winter storms are just around the corner, bringing plenty of ice, snow and wind.

That makes right now an ideal time to prep your home for the harsher temperatures ahead. After all, the weather is still pretty agreeable, and the days are long enough to take advantage of evening sunlight. Checking off these tasks now will set you up for a long, worry-free winter—and give you more time to enjoy the autumn as well. Here’s everything you need to know.

kid playing with leaves

Clean Your Gutters

You probably don’t need to be reminded about this task; it’s usually pretty evident by the pile of leaves on the ground. But just in case you need convincing, you should definitely give your gutters some attention this time of year. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool on your roof or cascade over the siding, which means your next stop is Leak Central. Luckily, cleaning the gutters doesn’t have to be a massive headache. In fact, you can even install gutter guards after you finish to make the job a whole lot easier next time.

Give Your Windows and Doors Some TLC

About a third of a home’s heat loss occurs through leaky windows and doors, which means getting yours in peak winter condition is key to maintaining a comfortable home and reasonable energy bills. If your windows are older or inefficient, install storm windows over them to keep out the drafts. Next, move inside, adding foam weather stripping to the edges of doors and windows. Scrape out cracked window caulking with a razor blade and apply fresh silicone sealant to prevent drafts and heat loss. Install a door sweep at the edge of all exterior doors, and get ready for your coziest winter yet!

Get Your Heating Systems Cold-Weather-Ready

If La Niña has anything to say about it, most of us have a pretty wet, nasty winter in store this year. And that means our heating systems are going to be working pretty hard. Give yours a head start by putting in some maintenance now. The first thing you should always do is change the filters on your furnace. Dirty filters can make your unit work less effectively, which means less heat for your home. Another smart move is to have a HVAC technician out to perform a maintenance visit. Have them check the electrical connections and air pressure, recharging your unit if necessary. If you plan to use your chimney to heat your home as well, have it inspected and cleaned. Creosote buildup in chimneys is a fire hazard that’s preventable with professional cleaning. An inspector will help locate cracks in the chimney and flashing, as well. After all, nothing is nicer than a crackling fire to stave off the winter chill!

Trim Trees and Rake Leaves

Fall leaves need raking—that’s a no-brainer. Leaves left on the ground over winter can seriously stunt grass growth in the spring. Plus, raked leaves make great fodder for compost or mulch later. But you’ll also need to take your focus a little higher up, too. Dead tree branches and limbs can snap under the weight of ice and snow, causing all kinds of havoc. Usually it’s best to have a professional arborist or tree trimming service out to take care of this work, since trimming can be dangerous for untrained homeowners. The pros also know how to spot problem areas, like a hollow trunk, that might cause problems down the line.

Check Your Roof and Siding

Fall is pretty much the ideal time to have your roof inspected. Roofing inspectors look for loose shingles and damaged flashing that can lead to leaks in wet weather. They’ll also be able to scope out hail damage and other issues that might have popped up from summer thunderstorms. A professional roofing inspection is recommended every three to five years, so if it’s been a while, you’ll want to take care of that now. Another issue to check for? Look for cracks where the masonry meets the siding, or signs of peeling paint or cracked vinyl siding along your home’s exterior walls. Both of these issues should be dealt with before cold wet weather begins.

Take Care of Your Porch and Lawn

Now it’s time to turn an eye on your porch and lawn. First, bring in any potted plants that won’t survive colder temperatures and then store delicate lawn furniture, like anything wicker, in a covered area, like the garage. You should also remove any cushions and fragile decorations that might not make it through the winter intact. Now is also a good time to check the stairs and railings of your porch as well, to ensure that they will be safe to use in slippery winter conditions. Next, move over to the side of your house and turn off the valves to the exterior hoses. These can freeze in the winter and cause pipes to burst. Allow any leftover water to drain out of the hoses, as well. Roll them up and place them somewhere safe where they won’t be bothered by winter winds.

Last of all, grab a blanket and a cup of your favorite hot beverage and scope out this list for your latest Netflix binge. Now you have everything you need to last you through until the end of winter!

7 Things You Might Not Know About Fall Lawn Care

Fall is definitely well under way, but that’s no excuse to abandon your lawn. Your turf needs your attention at all times of the year, but especially now, when late season seeding, watering, and fertilization can mean the difference between a vigorous, healthy lawn and one that’s sick and spindly come spring.

In particular, now is the time to get your grass prepped for the long winter ahead by feeding it plenty of nutrients—and ensuring that it can absorb them all. Of course, knowing how to do just that—and when to do it—can make or break your turf game. Here are a few pointers you may not have heard yet, and some things you can do to get your grass all set for the colder weather ahead.

grassy lawn

Continue Watering Well into Fall

Most people think they can turn off the sprinklers the minute the weather gets just the slightest bit cooler—after all, nature will take it from here, right? Not so. Lawns should be watered up to the first frost in order to keep them well-hydrated during the fall. That way, they’ll be healthy enough to survive any hot and dry spells that occur throughout this period. In fact, if you live in the north, your grass is busy establishing roots right now, which means it’s important it stays watered so as not to impinge on this growth. So keep those sprinklers going!

Your Fall Lawn Care Regimen Depends on the Type of Grass You Have

You probably see articles recommending you do this or that to your lawn, but actually it’s hard to give an exact prescription for the perfect lawn care regimen. That’s because the steps depend on the type of grass you have in your lawn. Cool season grasses like fescue, ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass need plenty of fertilizer in the fall to sustain their root systems over the winter. Warm season grasses, however, like Bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine go dormant much earlier in the season, and so may not need as much primping and tending to.

Falling Leaves Can Harm Your Turf

Ever left something out on your lawn for a couple of days, only to discover a patch of sickly, pale grass underneath it afterwards? A similar thing occurs when the trees drop their leaves. While a leaf or two here and there won’t really hurt anything, a heavy coat of fallen foliage can imperil your turf, robbing it of vital sun and moisture. To prevent that from happening, it’s best to rake leaves regularly and thoroughly.

Now’s the Perfect Time to Aerate Your Soil

Turf-covered soil can become compacted over time, especially if you have a lot of clay or silt in your soil composition. When compaction happens, it’s more difficult for the roots to take in nutrients, which means a less lush, healthy lawn in the spring. You may not need to aerate your soil every year, but you should at least address it ocassionally with a core aerator to keep growth steady and dependable.

Always Overseed Your Lawn

Seeding your lawn is one of those few times where “too much of a good thing” doesn’t apply. Overseeding for a thicker, fuller lawn is a pretty good battle plan against weeds, since your best defense against dandelions and other invaders is a healthy, vibrant lawn. So go ahead, spread that seed with a liberal hand. It will also help to fill in any bald patches that resulted from summer dry spells. Win-win!

Wait for Colder Weather to Fertilize

In life, timing is everything. The same adage holds true for your lawn. If you fertilize cool season grasses too early, the turf will get confused and start sending up new growth: tender, young blades that will die off the next time there’s a frost—and use up your grass’s winter food supply in the process. Always wait until late fall to apply fertilizer, and use a slow-release granular product that will tide your grass over until spring.

Kill Weeds Naturally with Vinegar

Fall’s a great time to attack common weeds like dandelions and plantains. The reason? Just like your grass, weeds are about to go into conservation mode for the winter, meaning they’re more likely to be in a weakened state right now, and thus, easier to remove. Instead of spreading a bunch of pesticides, however, try hitting them with a mixture of 5 parts vinegar, 2 parts water and 1 part everyday dish soap. The solution, when applied with a spray bottle, stops dandelions in their tracks—without harming beneficial micro-organisms in your soil. A healthier, all-natural lawn? Where do I sign up?