Fall starts this week and it’s time to start getting the yard ready for winter’s inevitable arrival. Here in New Hampshire they are calling for the first frost of the season Sunday night into Monday morning, which means the growing season is officially over.
It’s a good idea to take advantage of the mild afternoons this time of year to “put your yard to bed” for the winter as I like to call it. Here are some things you should do before the cold weather arrives.
Empty out any bird houses you have in your yard. You may have noticed birds darting in and out of houses you hung around your yard this summer, and you’ll want to clean those houses out for sure. Here’s something you might not know: some birds build “dummy nests” in houses nearby their actual nests to deter enemies from bother their babies. Make sure you check all your bird houses and clean out any nests you find. Be sure to wash your hands well when you are finished.
Dispose of annuals that have lived out their purpose or didn’t survive the summer. Now that the nights are getting cooler you will want to make sure you bring in any plants that you put outside for the summer. If you planted annuals in pots that you won’t be bringing indoors for the winter, dispose of the plants, brush out the pots, and store them until next spring. If you have a rosemary plant that survived the summer in better condition than mine did, bring it indoors, put it in a sunny spot in a cool room, and let it dry out between waterings (a clay pot will help). It should survive the winter and you will be able to put it back outdoors again when the weather warms up.
Trim down your hostas. You can wait until the first frost wilts them, or, if cold nighttime temperatures are already starting to turn them, go ahead and cut them back. I leave about two inches or so of plant, and then cover them over with leaves before the snow falls. In the spring I rake the leaves off as soon as the snow melts and I find this protects them from the harsh weather.
I also cut back my perennial flowers such as daisies, black-eyed susans, cone-flowers, and any herb that comes back every year. As with the hostas, these plants get covered over with fallen leaves for the winter, which get raked off as soon as the snow melts off in the spring.
Speaking of leaves and raking, I have a privet hedge which goes around two sides of my yard. In the fall, I let the leaves stay under the hedges (over the roots) and don’t rake them out until the spring. I have several other shrubs in my yard that I let the leaves stay over the base of during the winter as well. I figure it acts as good insulation from the cold. I rake the leaves off my lawn only in the fall, and in the spring I rake again and do a more thorough job.
Clean and store your yard furniture. I store my yard furniture in my barn/garage for the winter. Before it gets put away I wash it down with plain water and a washcloth. I let it dry and then it gets stored for the winter. When it comes out in the spring, I wipe it down again to get rid of the dust and the cobwebs from my barn. If you don’t have somewhere indoors to store your furniture, consider purchasing covers for it to protect it from the elements and extend its life.
Finally, mow your law a few last times. It will make raking the leaves easier if the grass is shorter, and it will keep your lawn healthier.
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