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North Hills Monthly

Prepping for Fall: Get Your Home and Garden Ready

Aug 31, 2016 10:30AM ● By Denise Schreiber

It’s that time of year again—kids are back in school, the temperatures are starting to get a little cooler, and the sun is setting a little earlier. This is the when we need to take stock of things around the garden and the home.

I start by taking pictures of my garden beds and containers so that I have a record of what worked and didn’t work in the garden. This helps me decide to change or move plants depending on their growth or when they bloom. This is the easy part.

There is also maintenance to do in the garden before the cold days are upon us. Once a frost kills your annuals and perennial foliage, remove the dead foliage and either compost it or put it in the garbage, especially if it suffered from any disease. Mulching perennials helps them make it through the winter and stops the plants from heaving out of the ground. In fact, after a couple of frosts, mulch all of your beds; it will help retain moisture gained from autumn rains and protect the roots of your plants, including trees.

Speaking of trees and shrubs, there’s that little job of raking leaves—not everyone’s favorite task, but it’s necessary. If you have a large amount of leaves, rake them onto a large tarp before placing them in paper bags for pick up. You can also leave them in a pile and run your lawnmower over them a few times, chopping them up nicely as leaf mulch for the garden.

Now is the time to prevent deer from rubbing on your trees. You can buy protectors that wrap around the trunk and secure with cable ties, and these can be left on for several years until the trunk of the tree grows enough to cause it to break. For smaller shrubs, you can use burlap to prevent grazing. There are several sprays on the market that deter deer and smaller critters from gnawing on your prize plants, including Liquid Fence, Plantskydd and Deer Away. Spray it on your plants approximately every three weeks or so depending on rain and snow. Rotating different sprays is the best way to keep Bambi from coming to dinner; you and your neighbors can each purchase one and rotate them to help keep down costs.

Garden tools shouldn’t be ignored, either. Sharpen the edges of shovels, mattocks, pruners and anything else that you use for cutting plants. Many local hardware stores will sharpen them for you as well. Oil the edges to prevent rust and store them somewhere dry.

Speaking of dry, make sure to shut off and drain outside faucets to prevent broken water pipes in the dead of winter. Empty the water from the hose and store it to prevent brittleness. If your property is along a road that gets a lot of salt, you can place a screen of burlap or landscape fabric to prevent salt from being scattered on to your lawn or shrubs.

Check your home for any loose shingles or gutters. They can leak and damage your siding. If you have storm windows, make sure that they fit tightly to keep the cold air out. Clean window screens in the shower using a soft brush and a little Murphy’s Oil soap. Once they’re dry, cover them with a large garbage bag and store them in an upright position.

One of the most important things that you can do now is to have your furnace checked to make sure it is working properly. Have a reputable company examine the furnace to ensure that everything is in working order, and keep the furnace area neat and clean—nothing should be stored next to it. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if it is not vented properly. Stock up on furnace filters; depending on the type, they need to be replaced anywhere from every month to every three months. Keeping them clean helps you keep the dust down in the house, and you should clean the humidifier on the furnace as well. 

Don’t neglect hot water tanks and fireplaces. Drain the bottom of the hot water tank at least once a year to remove sediment. Log-burning fireplaces should have the chimney cleaned once a year by a professional; if there is not sufficient air uptake, carbon monoxide poisoning can occur. Even gas-fired fireplaces should be inspected for any loose bricks inside the chimney. If you’re using a log-burning fireplace, never use evergreen wood, such as pine, which can cause a build-up of creosote and possibly cause a fire.

Install combination carbon monoxide/smoke detectors on all levels of your home, and check the batteries once a month to make sure that they are in working order. You can also purchase detectors that are hardwired into the electrical system.

After you do all these things, reward yourself with a hot cup of coffee, a good book and a comfortable chair. Now you’re prepared for fall.