Top 10 Things to Do Before the First Snow

Wow, Fall is finally in full swing and before you know it, snow will be here too!  So before the flakes fall, here are few tips to get your yard ready for winter and making your spring to-do list a little easier.

1. Mow one final time

Don’t let your lawn head into winter without one final mowing. 

2. Aerate your lawn (or see 3 below)

You can DIY this project and rent walk-behind aerator from your neighborhood rental store.  If you have a truck, save the delivery fee and P/U yourself, otherwise, arrange for delivery it won’t fit in your trunk or minivan.  Lawn aeration is critical to mitigating soils compaction associated with consistent use and active play.  You will notice the aerator perforates your lawn allowing for improved water and air movement within the turf’s active root zone making both fertilization and watering more effective.  If you can’t do it now, wait until spring.

3.  De-Thatch you lawn

If aerating your lawn is just too  intimidating, consider purchasing a de-thatching attachment for your lawn mower.  You can find the attachment at most garden centers and hardware stores and you simply exchange your mower ‘blade’ for the ‘dethatcher’.  Once installed, you may needed to adjust the ‘cut’ height and raise the wheel/blade setting on your mower.  The attachment will make quick work of the matted ‘dead’ grass thatch inter-woven into the lawn.  Like aeration, de-thatching promotes more effective distribution of both water and nutrients/fertilizers into the turf roof system. 

Can’t find a thatching attachment or you don’t like the idea of swapping out the mower blade yourself, get out your garden rake.  You’ll need a bit more time and elbow grease, but you can rake out dead thatch very effectively with a garden rake.

If you have a vegetable garden, compost your thatch and turn it into the garden soil now. 

Like aerating, if you can’t do it now you’ll want to add it to the spring clean-up list. 

4. Apply a dose of winterizer fertilizer (with weed control is a plus)

An application of fertilizer before winter arrives will allow your lawn to soak up essential nutrients and herbicides needed after a full season of use and the summer heat.  Don’t expect your grass to green up now but come spring your lawn will be rejuvenated.

5.  Lime (its essential for a healthy lawn)

Apply either pelletized or pulverized (dust) lime to your lawn (it’s OK to apply in conjunction with fertilizers).  If you have mulching mower, the decomposing grass clippings binds essentials nutrients and acidifies the soil.  Most soils here in S/E PA are naturally more acidic and since turf grass does best with neutral to slightly alkaline soil Ph, lime is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn.

6. Remove weeds from the lawn and planting beds

Weed removal in fall is one of the best ways to reduce and prevent pesky seed stock from invading your garden and lawn in the spring. 

7. Remove leaves from the yard

A heavy layering of leaves can smother and kill the lawn once the snow falls. Dead leaves and leaf mulch (from mowing) also acidify soil, see 5 above.

8. Trim dead and overgrown tree limbs

Pruning can help your trees stay healthy and disease free so grab that saw and get to it.  Don’t go overboard though because too much pruning can cause harm to your trees.  Use pruning shears for smaller branches.  Pruning certain trees, like Pears, helps reduce breakage due to snow loading.

9. Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses

Most perennials should be cut back in late fall to prevent foliage from becoming insect breeding grounds.  Some perennials, such as Black-eyed Susans, can be left uncut until spring because they self-seed, provide food for birds and other outdoor critters.  Cut back ornamental grasses now for a tidy winter garden; although some can provide winter interest if left uncut.

10. Plant spring bulbs

For an attractive yard as soon as the warm spring weather hits, you’ll need to plant your spring bulbs now.  Bulbs need time to establish before the freezing temperatures hit so plant when the temperature average is around 40 to 50 degrees. 

Contact Paul Lepard, PP, RLA to discuss your landscaping needs at 610.265.8323 or [email protected]. 

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