It's a fact: summer is nearing its end and fall is on the way. Although it's hard to think about prepping your home for winter while it's still 90 degrees, getting your house and yard ready for the cold in the fall can save you lots of money in the spring. Improperly winterizing some of your big hardscape investments like your deck, landscaping and pool could mean big losses long term.
When the leaves start to change colors, it's crunch time. To avoid last-minute scrambling, make a list of all the things you'll need to check on before cold weather hits. Get a handle on all the jobs you'll need to tackle this fall, and decide what you feel comfortable handling yourself — and where you need to call in a professional.
Getting your deck cold-weather ready. This is one job that you can do yourself, provided your deck isn't completely falling apart. It's a lot of work, but it will save you a lot of money and ensure you will be able to use your deck again at the first sign of warm weather.
Before you get started, survey the deck to check for any rotted boards. These boards should be replaced before you proceed.
Once that's out of the way, it's time to clean your deck. Use some soapy water and scrub the surface with a stiff broom to remove any yard debris or decaying wood fibers. Use a mold and mildew remover to get rid of any stubborn grime. Just make sure to ask an expert about which product to use, as it varies depending on the type of deck.
(Photo: Shutterstock)Once the deck is dry, remove any fading or unwanted finish and reapply. Then apply a water-repellant seal to keep wind, rain and snow from destroying the decking material. Don't forget to remove any planters you keep on the deck in the summer — it's best to store these in the garage over the winter, as moisture trapped beneath them can eat away at the wood over the winter.
Draining your pool after the season. The cost of replacing torn liners and busted pipes can add up quickly, as any pool owner knows, so it's important to get your pool ready for winter well before the first freeze. Since a pool is such a huge investment, winterizing your pool is generally better left to the pros. This is especially true if you live in a place with extreme winters, since temperatures can easily drop well below freezing and cause severe damage.
There are some things you can do yourself before calling in a professional to do the dirty work. Skim the surface of your pool with a net to remove all the debris you can, and remove all skimmer baskets, wall fittings, cleaners and ladders from the pool. Store these in a clean, dry place over the winter to keep them in good shape for next season. Make sure your pool cover is in good condition, and replace it if necessary. Then, call in a pro to take care of the rest.
Preparing your plants for the cold. With this year's drought, your lawn and plants will need a little more love before they go dormant for the winter. That said, even the best care doesn't mean they won't suffer any damage.
(Photo: Shutterstock)"There isn't any magic bullet to have your plants recover from a prolonged drought," says Susan Littlefield, horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association. That said, there are precautions you can take to help move things along.
This fall, do what you can to address any additional stressors that may affect your plants. Deal with any infestations of insects or disease issues, as plants may not have the strength to fight them off by themselves this year. Keep the area around the root system mulched to conserve whatever moisture is in the soil, and give your plants an extra drink when you can. "The best thing for plants in terms of coming through winter in good shape is to make sure they go into the winter with a nice, well-watered root system," Littlefield advises.
Littlefield advises against fertilizing in drought conditions. Plants aren't actively growing, so they won't take advantage of the extra food, and in some cases the fertilizer can harm the root system. If the drought lets up this fall, feel free to fertilize. Just use less than you normally would to avoid hurting your plants. And don't prune or fertilize until plants have gone dormant — you don't want to stimulate new growth when plants are supposed to be winding down.
Plants will know winter is coming by the shorter periods of sunlight and cooler temperatures, so don't cover them too soon or they won't naturally develop their winter hardiness. Wait until the ground freezes to cover them, and when you do don't put any material directly on the plants. Instead, erect a burlap screen around them to protect them from snow and wind.