Finally, the day that everyone has been talking about all year has arrived – 11/11/11. So in honor of this auspicious day, I thought it might be fun to make a list of 11 things to smooth your transition through the winter and into next spring. Most of the tips are for your lawn and landscape, but I threw in a few other pre-winter household helps as well.
- Thank a Veteran. After all, it is Veteran’s Day, and if it weren’t for the sacrifices our brave military men and women have made in order to keep us the Land of the Free, the next 10 things would be pointless. So remember to thank them, not just today, but as often as you can.
- Get the leaves off the lawn. Most times, allowing the leaves to decay naturally is a good thing, because as the leaves break down they create a fine mulch of nutrients that help to nourish the trees and natural woodland plants. On the lawn, however, decaying leaves, after sitting frozen under piles of snow all winter, can prevent the grass from receiving vital sunlight and moisture, and can help speed fungus problems, such as spring molds and mushrooms. So clean up the leaves, and get them off the grassy areas before the snow falls.
- Feed the lawn. Not because it’s hungry now, but because it will be when it wakes up in the spring. Applying fertilizer and lime to the grass areas will give the grass something to strengthen itself when it starts to grow again. This is best done before the first snowfall.
- Protect your shrubs. Have your shrubs treated with an anti-dessicant oil spray, especially azaleas, rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs. Late fall and winter winds are extremely drying, and just as your skin loses moisture, so will you precious plants. Keeping them protected with an oil coating helps them recover from winter more quickly, allowing them to spend more of their spring energy pushing new buds rather than trying to regrow leaves.
- Feed your trees and shrubs. For the same reason you feed the lawn – to give them something to munch on when the ground thaws. A deep-root feeding product is injected into the roots of your shrubs and trees, and chills out there until it’s time to provide nourishment in the spring.
- Winterize your sprinkler system. When water freezes, it expands. When it runs out of room to expand to, it breaks out of wherever container it is in, which in this case, will be your sprinkler pipes. Springtime freeze damage repairs can be costly. Also, since most irrigation companies are busy all spring getting their customers’ systems open for the new season, getting an appointment for a major repair might take awhile. It can be pretty frustrating watering your lawn and flowers with a hose when you have an underground sprinkler system installed for that purpose.
- Clean your gutters. After the last leaves have fallen, usually shortly after Thanksgiving, have the gutters cleaned and flushed to avoid blockages. Blocked gutters cause drainage problems when the water spills over them and pools against the house, where it can seep through your foundation.
- Contract a snow removal service. Arrange for a snowplow contractor to clean your driveway and walks when it snows. Believe it or not, if you live in an area like ours in New Jersey where we get a fair amount of snow but not overly huge amounts, paying for someone to take care of your snow is more economical than you think, by the time you buy the snow-blower, the shovels, the boots, the jacket, etc., not to mention your time, which very few of us ever figure in as an actual cost. If you are a die-hard snow lover who insists on cleaning your own snow, be sure to have the snow-blower serviced, and buy your boots and shovels early.
- Have your chimneys cleaned. Heating season has begun, especially with our surprise Halloween snowfall. Our feathered and furry outdoor friends have been making nests all season, sometimes within the safe confines of our chimneys. Have a professional clean the chimney to your heating system, as well as any chimneys from fireplaces and wood stoves before you light that first fire.
- Inspect your steps. Check all of the steps leading from all the entrances of your home. If they are cracked or breaking, have them repaired now. Winter rains and snow seep into the cracks and breaks, freeze, and create more damage. You’ll save money by fixing them while the problems are small.
- Dream. Think about your home and property. What are the things you love about where you live? What things would you like to change? Maybe a new patio, deck or rock wall? 2011 was also a year of records in Northern Jersey, from record snow to record rain to record heat, to Hurricane Irene. What problems did these events cause to your property that can be fixed by a good landscape, drainage or irrigation design? Now is the time to plan ahead. Get your ideas together, contact a landscape professional (hint: our very own David Huber has some really awesome ideas), and ask questions. Working ahead also gives you time to plan a budget, save for the project, and think all the details through before the work begins.
Benjamin Franklin was known for many things, and for the purpose of this blog, the quote “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. How appropriate this quote is when talking about being prepared for the winter. And how more appropriate it is to quote a great American on the day we honor the great Americans we call our United States Military. The entire staff of Horizon Landscape Company extends a big Thank You to all who have served.