20 Important Tasks That’ll Get Your Yard Ready for Winter

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated December 17, 2021
suburban home in the snow
trongnguyen / stock.adobe.com

Make sure your yard is ready before Jack Frost comes nipping

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You’ve already hauled your puffy coat and winter boots out from the back of the closet, but before the temperature dips too low, your yard needs a little attention too. Follow these tips on how to prepare your yard for winter, and you’ll have a beautiful garden in the spring.

1. Aerate Your Lawn

Avoid soil compaction by aerating your lawn. Using a hand-held aeration tool, pierce holes in the turf to allow water and nutrients to distribute deeper into the soil. You can rent or buy a rolling aeration tool to cover more ground if you have an extensive area to cover.

2. Fertilize Your Lawn

A hand in glove spreading fertilizer on lawn
Photo: adragan / Adobe Stock

Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescue benefit from a fall feeding, typically September or October, in most climates. If you haven’t already done so and temperatures haven’t dipped below freezing consistently, you can still fertilize your lawn now, but don’t wait too long. You should feed again in early spring. 

Warm-season grasses, which are more common in southern climates, should only be fertilized in the spring. These grasses include Bermuda grass, Centipede grass, Bahia grass, and Zoysia grass.

3. Treat for Snow Mold

If you live in an area where snowmelt in the spring causes “snow mold” or other fungi to grow on your lawn, treat the grass now with a lawn fungicide. This is an important step to prepare your yard for winter so it’ll keep your lawn healthy for the warmer months.

4. Mulch Your Lawn

A house’s landscape with shrubs and trees in autumn
Photo: tab62 / Adobe Stock

It might seem counterintuitive after all that raking, but spread a light layer of leaves out on your lawn and then run your lawnmower at a shorter setting to chop up the leaves. This creates a mulch layer that will slowly break down over the winter and provide nutrients for the grass, as well as some cold protection.

5. Mulch Your Flower Beds

Unless you live in a mild Mediterranean or southern climate, by late fall and early winter (November and December), it’s generally too late to fertilize your garden beds. However, it is an ideal time to mulch them. 

If you still have fall leaves left over, you’ve got an excellent free mulch right at your fingertips. Spread these at the base of your plants, or run the lawnmower over a small pile of leaves to chop them up and create a finer leaf mulch. Other types of mulch include wood chips or bark and crushed pine needle mulch. 

6. Insulate Your Perennials

In addition to mulching to prepare your lawn for winter, if you live in an area with freezing temps, you will probably need to insulate your plants. Spreading a thick layer of leaves or straw at the base of plants is easy and inexpensive. 

7. Protect Your Shrubs

A wrapped shrub to protect it from cold weather
Photo: hcast / Adobe Stock

If you live somewhere with consistent, extremely low temperatures and heavy snowfall, you can also protect larger shrubs by wrapping them in burlap. This is particularly helpful for plants that border your yard and could use protection from snowplow spray, which often includes salt from the roads. 

8. Dig Up Delicate Plants and Tubers 

If you haven’t already as part of your fall gardening checklist, be sure to dig up and properly store any delicate plants or tubers that won’t like the winter weather. Let them dry out after digging, and then store them in a crate or terracotta pot in shavings or sawdust. 

9. Plant Bulbs

A woman planting bulbs in the ground
Photo: iMarzi / Adobe Stock

November is not too late to plant spring-blooming bulbs. In fact, you can plant them any time before the ground freezes, which can be as late as the beginning of December. 

10. Empty and Store Pots 

Remove plants from pots and empty the soil, ideally right into an existing raised bed, to prepare your yard for winter. Soil in pots loses nutrients quickly, so it’s important to change it out each spring. Rinse pots, allow them to dry out, and stack them in your garden shed or garage. 

11. Trim Shrubs and Perennials 

Any perennials you haven’t already pruned, such as ornamental grasses or shrubs that had showy fall colors, should be trimmed up now.  

12. Trim Your Smaller Trees

A man trimming a tree’s branch
Photo: Minerva Studio / Adobe Stock

Pruning in the fall stimulates growth in the spring. Pruning once the leaves have fallen from any deciduous trees or large shrubs allows you to see the form of the plant. You can also shape evergreen trees without worrying about new growth until the spring (hedge animals, anyone?).

13. Remove Branches and Prune Large Trees 

Remove dead or precariously hanging branches that could fall down during a big windstorm and cause damage to your home. When the tree is close to your home or roofline, hire a tree removal service to safely remove the branches or get rid of trees as needed.

14. Put Away Hoses

A man’s hand shutting off the water valve
Photo: The Toidi / Adobe Stock

Even if it doesn’t get below freezing where you live, it’s always a good idea to wrap up and store hoses and other irrigation equipment you won’t be using in the winter. 

15. Winterize Your Outdoor Plumbing

For those who live where the temperatures even occasionally dip below freezing, winterizing your outdoor watering system is essential. Turn off the water to your outside spigots and cover spigots with insulation or caps to properly prepare your yard for winter’s chilly temperatures. 

16. Winterize Your Drip Irrigation System

Just like your outside spigots, it’s equally important to winterize any drip irrigation system two to three weeks before the first frost. Otherwise, water left in the system will swell as it freezes and cause leaks. You’ll need to cut off the water supply and drain any existing water, typically by blowing air through the system. 

17. Winterize Your Sprinkler System

A man is shutting off the sprinkler system valve
Photo: Lost_in_the_Midwest / Adobe Stock

Like your irrigation system, the convenience of an automatic sprinkler will prove very inconvenient if you have burst pipes. Winterize your sprinkler system  by shutting off the outdoor water supply, removing faucet assembly, draining the system, and insulating any above-ground parts. The cost to winterize a sprinkler  system ranges from $75 to $150, and it’s a job best left to a local landscaper or plumber.

18. Remove Solar Lights and Garden Ornaments

If you live somewhere with heavy winter rainfall or moderate to heavy snowfall, remove solar garden lights and decorative items to prepare your yard and decor for winter’s brutal extremes. 

19. Cover Your Furniture

Unless you plan to use the chaise lounge to catch snowflakes, put away or cover benches, chairs, tables, and other patio furniture you won’t be using.

20. Clean Your Pavers

Detail of a man cleaning a paver using a high pressure washer
Photo: ronstik / Adobe Stock

Before winter weather takes over the yard, try to tidy up any paver patio areas or walkways. Seasonal maintenance and cleaning now will make it easier for you in the spring when you’re ready to use your yard again more often.

Hire a Pro to Prepare Your Yard for Winter

If this checklist is looking long and the days short, consider hiring a local landscape company to come over and help you get your yard and garden ready for the chilly months.

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