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Your yard was the envy of the neighborhood this year. But now it's time to pack things up for the winter season. We'll show you the steps to prepare your lawn and garden for winter to ensure your yard survives the harsh cold temperatures. Once spring returns, you'll see the benefits of your lawn prep efforts.

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Here were are. It’s late fall. The trees have shed most of their leaves and the autumn air is crisp and cool. Winter is just a few weeks away, and our attention has turned from spending time outside enjoying our yard, to preparing it for the winter months ahead. No matter where you live, there are some things you need to do to “button” your yard and garden up for the season. And keep in mind that a little TLC now will pay off dividends next spring.

In today’s video we’ll show you the 10 things you need to do to prepare your yard and garden for winter… So let’s get started.

The first thing we’ll do is probably the most obvious on our list. We need to do something with all these leaves. Raking leaves is one of the best things you can do for your lawn this fall. But let’s not pull out the rake or leaf blower just yet. One thing our lawn needs, even this late in the season, is organic matter, and mulched leaves are perfect. For this, I’ve equipped my mower with the mulching attachment and will simply mow over the leaves and mulch them back into the lawn, along with the grass clippings. We’ll continue to do this for the coming weeks until the leaves really start to pile up. Also, the last time you mow for the season, you should lower the cutting height to about 2 inches to prevent the grass from matting by laying over on itself under wet conditions.

When the leaves get too thick to mulch back into the lawn, we’ll get out the rake to collect the rest. The last thing you want to do is leave a pile of leaves on your lawn all winter. It will eventually smother the grass. We have several tools at our disposal to help us pick up leaves. First, we have two different types of rakes—this traditional steel-tined rake, and this larger, anti-clog rake, which is what we’ll be using. For more information on selecting the proper rake, see our Frequently Asked Questions for this video. For tips on choosing the right leaf blower, see our video “Outdoor Power Tool Essentials.” There are a number of products to help with your leaf raking efforts. Be sure to check with your local independent home improvement retailer to see what’s available to help with your efforts.

We could dispose of all these leaves by bagging them and putting them out at the curb, but instead we’re going to rake them up and compost them to make leaf mold and to add brown matter to our compost bin. We’ll add some compost starter for good measure. For more on composting, see our video, “Starting a Compost Pile.”

We’ll reduce the amount of yard waste that we will be discarding by limiting it to the sticks and tree limbs that we pruned that can’t be composted easily. In fact, picking up sticks is next on our list. First we’ll scour the lawn for sticks … then the garden beds.

The last lawn-related item on our list is to apply a winterizer fertilizer formula to help give the roots a boost of nutrients just before the grass stops growing above the ground. Remember, the roots need this feeding as they prepare for the long winter dormant season. And your efforts now will pay dividends next spring.

Since the watering season is over here in our part of the country, it’s critical that we drain and store all of our sprinklers, hoses and hose reels for the winter. After they are drained and put away, be sure to turn the water off at the spigots from inside your home, and protect them with these insulated foam covers that fasten directly to the spigots. For more information on outdoor spigots, see our frequently asked questions for this video. However, if you live in a part of the country where winters are mild and above freezing, you will probably want to continue watering every two or three weeks if there isn’t adequate rainfall. Check with your local independent home improvement retailer for late season lawn care tips in your “neck of the woods.” Also see our video, “Lawn Watering Basics.”

Now that the yard it put to bed, it’s time to turn our attention to the garden by pulling the remaining plants, like our prized tomatoes, that were the hit of the neighborhood this year. These plant stalks, and even the remaining fruit, can go straight into the compost pile. We’ll just cut up some of the plant stalks to speed the composting process along. There … now we have a clean bed.

Another item we can discard in the compost pile … leaves from the gutter. For more on “Cleaning Gutters” and “Keeping Leaves Out of the Gutters” see the related videos in the Lawn & Garden section of the Project Finder.

One of the winterizing steps that is many times forgotten is protecting your AC unit from harsh winter weather. When you consider that the typical replacement cost for a central air conditioning unit can run upwards of $4,000, a $20 cover makes pretty good sense. That should help keep some of the snow and ice out of the unit this winter.

Before we put our mower away for the season, we’ll add some fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to help protect the engine this winter. For more on winterizing your mower, see our list of frequently asked questions for this video, and be sure to check out our Lawn Mower Maintenance Series in the Lawn & Garden section of the Project Finder.

Finally, we’ll perform some much needed preventive tool maintenance, this time on all the lawn and garden hand tools and long handled tools we’ve used this season. First, we’ll give them a thorough cleaning to remove any dirt. Then we’ll get rid of any rust, using some Naval Jelly. After it sits for a few minutes, give it a rinss with denatured alcohol. When clean and dry, a couple drops of 3-N-1 oil will keep everyting lubricated until we are ready for them next spring. If any of the blades or cutters needs sharpening, now is the time to do it. For more on sharpening lawn & garden tools, see our Frequently Asked Questions for this video.

There you have it, our yard and garden is now put away for the winter. The time we spent checking these things off our list this fall will give us a jump on the season when spring returns and things start growing again.

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  1. 1.mow leaves

    As the leaves begin to fall from the trees, mow over them to give your yard extra nutrients.

  2. 2.pick up leaves

    When your yard starts to have too many leaves to mow over, rake them up and dispose of them. Leaves are perfect for compost piles.

  3. 3.sticks

    Remove any sticks from the yard, flowerbeds, and from under bushes.

  4. 4.fertilize

    Apply a winterizer fertilizer to your grass.

  5. 5.hose

    For regions with cold winters, put away hoses and other watering systems.

  6. 6.water spout

    Turn water off to outdoor water spigots.

  7. 7.foam cover

    Protect outdoor spigots with insulated foam covers.

  8. 8.water lawn

    For regions with mild winters, continue to water the lawn every 2 to 3 weeks depending on rainfall.

  9. 9.remove plants

    Remove plants from flowerbeds that are no longer in season.

  10. 10.Clean Gutter

    Clean out gutters. See video "Cleaning Gutters" and "Keeping Leaves Out of Your Gutters."

  11. 11.AC Unit

    Place a protective cover over your air conditioning unit.

  12. 12.lawn mower

    Add fuel stabilizer to your lawnmower's fuel. Check out "Lawnmower Tune-Up" for more instruction.

  13. 13.clean tools

    Clean garden tools, removing any dirt, grime or rust.


Project Faqs « back to project

Is there any advantage of a metal leaf rake over a plastic leaf rake?

A metal rake usually has more spring and is better suited for large areas. It is easier to clean around flowerbeds, shrubs and bushes and does not... More »


... More »

How do I take care of my pruning tools?

Simply keep them clean and wipe them down with light oil. Oil their pivot points and blades with 3-in-1 oil and sharpen them if need be. Also remove... More »

Do I need to turn the water off to my outdoor spigots during the winter?

It’s a good idea to keep them from freezing, especially if you don’t have a frost-free sillcock supplying water to your outdoor... More »

I want to fertilize my lawn and prevent crabgrass, but I just spread grass seeding on my lawn. What should I use?

There is a product specially formulated as a pre-emergent that prevents crabgrass but allows grass seed to... More »

Do I need to turn the water off to my outdoor spigots during the winter?

It’s a good idea to keep them from freezing, especially if you don’t have a frost-free sillcock supplying water to your outdoor... More »

How much ground will lawn fertilizer cover?

Lawn needs are usually based on nitrogen needs and vary from 1 to 6 pounds needed per 1,000 square feet per year. Specific amounts depend... More »


How often should I apply fertilizer to my lawn?

You should feed your lawn every six to eight weeks during the growing season. This usually means April, June, August and October, but your lawn may... More »

I’m going to be painting a table that has a gloss finish. Do I need to prepare the surface?

You should use a liquid deglosser, which works without sanding and also produces a slight tack for better adhesion of the new... More »

Won’t stone or ceramic floors always be cold in the winter?

Stone tends to hold the room temperature, but you can buy floor-warming systems. These install underneath the tile and keep the floor... More »

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