Over the last few weeks, our posts have given you advice on aerating your lawn and preparing your gardens for the winter. Today, we offer a checklist of final measures you should take to make sure your lawn and gardens are winter-ready.
____ 1. Fertilize Your Lawn
Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it. Seems you should be feeding your lawn in the spring and summer, when it is growing, not the fall. Actually, feeding the lawn in the fall is vital in most Canadian climates. During the winter, the roots need nourishment so that they can be ready to sprout and grow new tops early in the spring. Mid-September, fertilize lightly with high-nitrogen fertilizer. Then follow that application about 6 weeks later, before the first freeze, with a high-phosphorus blend. For best results, have your soil tested first to make sure you provide it with the nutrients it needs.
____ 2. Reseed and Overseed
Reseeding takes care of any patches in your turf that has weakened or died back. Overseeding will thicken the lawn. Use a good brand of perennial ryegrass, which, if properly watered, will usually germinate in four to seven days.
____ 3. Top-dress Your Lawn
To make sure those seeds you sow take root, we suggest top-dressing the entire lawn with compost or other rich soil. About one-third of a meter’s depth should do it. Make sure your lawn does not dry out in the fall. While fall rains may come steadily and won’t need extra watering, monitor the weather so that you make sure that the lawn gets water every couple of weeks.
____ 4. Move Trees, Bushes, and Perennials
Fall is the best time to move that peony bush or flowering crab to a more desirable location. Because the roots of dormant trees, bushes, and perennials can sap up available nutrients without expending energy on leaves and without contending with summer heat and insect attacks, the roots expend their energy on growing new root. So take advantage of that potential growth and move those plants and trees at this time. Move evergreens right away in early fall, deciduous trees can wait a bit. Be sure to surround the transplants with a doughnut of mulch. For gardens this is a good time to thin out over-crowded perennials – give some to your neighbours or replant in other areas around the garden.
____ 5. Lightly Prune Trees and Bushes
Because insects hide in dead branches, prune any dead wood from trees and bushes. Do not over-prune because pruning naturally stimulates new growth and fall is not the time to stimulate branch growth. Instead branches should be going dormant.
____ 6. Rake or Power Blow Fallen Leaves
Rake up or use a motorized blower to remove excess leaves from the lawn. Leaves left on the lawn can rot and sometimes poison the soil. Maples have chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants. Get them off the lawn so that next spring, after the snow melts, the lawn will get the light and air it needs to grow.
____ 7. Shut off Hoses
In late fall, once the watering ends for sure, shut off hose water in the inside of the house and DRAIN – make sure no water left in nozzles or sprinklers. If the water freezes inside it can expand and can cause hoses to split and sprinklers to crack.
____ 8. Clean Out Eavestroughs
At the very end of the season, once the leaves have all fallen, clean all the debris out of the eavestroughs. This will ensure that the spring runoff will flow nicely down your downspouts.