Outdoor chore checklist: fall edition
I am running out of time to get ready for winter here. This week, in Southern Ontario, Canada, we have an “appreciable” chance of snow in the forecast. But there are still some chores that I have to get done before winter really hits.
Sometimes it can feel like there’s so much to do, that I don’t know where to start. So I created a handy little checklist to help me keep track of all the little outside chores that I need to do to get ready for winter. For those of you in more southern climates, a lot of these probably won’t apply, but for those of us who deal with cold temperatures, snow and ice, and the occasional major snow storm or blizzard, there’s a lot to do to be prepared.
Start with the Lawn & Garden
There’s the obvious chores, right? You have to rake up and mow the grass one last time. This is when you clean up the lawn, so that when spring comes again, there’s less work to do to clean up the grassy areas, after the storms of winter. This is also apparently one of the best times to reseed your grass, if you have bare patches. But you don’t want to fertilize now, because fall rains can just wash it all away.
The lawn is the easy part. Most of the fall chores are in the garden. Harvesting, cleaning out the dead and dying stuff, and general clean up are the name of the game. And if you have winter planting you want to do, you have to get it in the ground before frost. So planting bulbs and sowing winter lettuce or other greens are one of the biggest chores to do in the fall.
Then you have to winterize your beds. That means you cover the shrubs, trees and plants that might be damaged in winter winds or storms, and you want to put your final layer of mulch over the soil. That can help keep erosion to a minimum with winter weather and then the spring melts later.
Prepare your Home and Car
So now that the easy stuff is done, it’s time to tackle your home and car to get ready for winter.
Getting your vehicle ready for winter isn’t that difficult, just sometimes expensive.
While you can clean it yourself, unless you’re handy with car repair, it’s best to get tune-ups done by a professional. You want to make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape to handle slippery roads and poor visibility.
In some areas, installing winter tires is mandatory, but it’s a good idea in all areas that get significant cold temperatures. You’ll also want to purchase winter washer fluid, antifreeze and transition to other winter fluids if necessary. I always forget the windshield washer fluid, but it’s super important for visibility in winter! So get extra.
It’s also a good idea to put an emergency kit in your vehicle. And I mean more than just the basic first aid. Have a few chocolate granola bars and extra blankets in your car, and if you have the space, a small gas can. A few years ago, I bought a battery booster, that doubles as a flashlight and an outlet for devices, and it was the best purchase ever. I keep it charged and in my vehicle at all times.
Winterizing your home requires some work.
This is where having the right tools can come in handy. Start at the top and work your way down. So grab a ladder, and give your roof a cursory inspection. If you see visible damage, it’s best to call an expert, but unless you’re getting leaks, you’re probably ok. While you’re up there, clean out the eaves-troughs and gutters. Keeping them free of debris will help with water management later.
Next, check for tree branches that are close to your roof or power lines. You may want to trim them back, or call someone to do that. In a bad storm, a tree branch can come down, and it can be a huge expense to fix a broken roof or ripped off power line.
Finally, check all your windows and doors. Clean and install storm windows and weatherproofing. Maybe add extra caulk in places that look like they could use it. You’ll save a fortune on heating costs!
Clean up the Tools & Toys
Now that you’re done with the big stuff, it’s time to put away all the little things. Start with the tools you’ve used to keep your home and garden looking nice.
Give your lawnmower a tune up and clean up, before putting away for the winter. Do the same with any other lawn care tools, like a weed trimmer or edger. And while you’re in the garage, pull out the tools you’ll need for winter, like a snowblower or shovel. Check them over to make sure they’re going to work. If you have cracks in your shovel, you may want to get a new one!
Then clean up the summer fun stuff. If you have a pool, you’ll need to winterize it, or put it away. Collect all the kids’ toys — the jump ropes, sand toys, balls and bubbles — and put them away for the winter. If they’re broken, toss them. Sand toys and bubbles are cheap and easy to replace in the spring.
Don’t forget about the bikes. While you may use these well into the fall, there comes a point where you have to do a final check and put them away for the winter. Oil up the chains, take off any streamers or baskets, and store them off the ground if possible. That will help them from getting frozen to the ground, and prevent damage to the tires.
And if your kids played sports all summer, you’ll want to store that equipment inside. Baseball helmets, bats, basketballs and nets don’t really do well in the winter weather, so take them in. If you have a hockey player, however, you’ll probably already have that stuff out! And if you go skating regularly, pull out the skates, check for fit and get them sharpened.
Be prepared for emergencies too!
Winter weather can be unpredictable. And power outages can be common during the winter. So get ready for winter emergencies. Make sure you have a supply of drinking water for your family for up to 72 hours. And get a good flashlight and extra batteries. If you can, you may want to get a battery operated radio, for information. And if you want to invest, you may want to consider a generator.
When I was a teenager, I lived through an ice storm that was devastating. We had enough ice coating surfaces that we could ice skate on the roads. The only way to get around for days was using a snowmobile, and some places had no electricity for weeks! Having a plan, and an alternate source of power and heat was super important for safety, let alone comfort.
Get ready for winter!
This is one of my least favorite parts of adulthood — getting ready for winter! But it’s a necessary set of chores, and no one else is going to do them but me. So having a checklist helps me stay on track and not forget anything important.
What do you do to get ready for winter?