Properly store your yard equipment
One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.
But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will be a headache if you don’t prep your equipment this fall. That’s because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.
Get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.
Run pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.
If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you’ll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.
Protect your pipes
When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.
If you haven’t tracked down your home’s water shut-offs yet, now’s the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you’ve found them, give them a test.
The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst. Now’s also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.
Clear out your crawl space
While you’re winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly? While it’s still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter’s worst happens.
Close your crawl space vents
During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home’s perimeter.
The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics. The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there.
Here’s why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.
Kick-start your composting efforts
Now’s the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don’t even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.
Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.
Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer. Next year’s tomatoes will thank you.
Protect your trees
Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split.
Wrap your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.