Get Your Lawn Ready for Winter

Fall is the time to prepare your lawn and garden for the spring. It might appear that there’s nothing to do, but think of your lawn and garden as going into hibernation during the winter – how you take care of it now will make all the difference when the weather warms up next year.


If you haven’t already, raise your lawn mower’s cutter up a notch. Ideally, this should be done in late summer

Photo by Simon Howden

and continue through the fall. If you mow typically in one direction, it’s time to change course. Try a horizontal mowing pattern if you generally mow in a vertical direction (and vice versa). Leave grass about two inches in length, and mow until the first frost.

This is also a good time to prune, but don’t go overboard. Concentrate on removing dead branches only, adding them to your compost pile.


Falling Autumn leaves are part of the season, but they can smother your lawn if you let them pile up. Rake them off your grass and add them to your compost pile. Once the leaves are gone, use a stiff rake to remove dead grass and moss. Now is the time to also remove weeds. This will let moisture and oxygen in but keep insects and weeds from making a cozy home out of your lawn, especially when the warmer temperatures of spring arrive.


It might sound intimidating, but use those leaves and grass clippings to easily start a compost pile. Choose a convenient spot near your garden and till the soil. Mix the loose dirt with the raked leaves and the grass clippings, and then let it essentially “bake” through the winter. Once a week or so, you can give the compost pile a stir with a large rake, shovel or pitchfork to encourage the movement of oxygen.

Once spring arrives, the compost pile should really start heating up. What was once grass and leaves will soon turn into rich soil for your garden!


Build up your garden space now for the spring in the form of planter boxes and raised beds. Till the soil of your future garden plot now, and cover it with leaves as they fall from the trees around your yard. If your area is prone to snow, shred the leaves into mulch before laying them down. In the spring, much of your prep work will be done!


Since the soil stays warmer than the air as winter grows closer, Autumn is a great time to plant bulbs and some perennials. When they’re planted in the fall, roots have time to grow and strengthen. Remove debris and prepare the ground before planting, and cover the area with shredded leaves or mulch for extra protection.

It’s important to also use this time to feed your lawn well before winter sets in. Use a fertilizer that contains phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium. During the winter, these nutrients will provide valuable food to the roots and help your grass resist disease. October is the latest to fertilize your grass to keep it from becoming damaged by frost.


It’s important to cover perennials around your landscape with a layer of leaves or mulch to keep them protected during the predictably cold winter months. Do the same with your future gardens, and put the leftovers into your compost pile.


Don’t let your valuable gardening and lawn tools gather rust over their winter hibernation. Once your lawn and garden are winterized, maintain your lawnmower, edgers and trimmers by cleaning them, changing the oil and adding a gas stabilizer to each one. Keep your other tools in good shape by cleaning them well and adding a thin coat of oil to keep them from rusting. Avoid water damage by draining and storing garden hoses, and empty and shut off any sprinklers.

Kelly Wilson is a freelance writer and author of Live Cheap and Free! Strategies to Thrive in Tough Economic Times. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

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