After a long hot summer, there's nothing like the joys that come with autumn, cool nights, fall colors, pumpkin flavored everything, and winter prep. Well, that last one might not be a true joy, but necessary nonetheless. The cold temperatures and moisture winter brings can damage tools, systems, and buildings so fall is the perfect time to do a little maintenance so your supplies are ready to work again after a winter’s rest. Here’s a checklist of must-do fall chores that will help you keep your garden and home in top shape.

Winterize the Deck

Winter Deck

Decks are part of our outdoor living space that allow us to lounge, grill, entertain, and relax. But they also take a beating from all that use. Wood decks are especially susceptible to damage from harsh weather conditions. Before the wet weather rolls in, take a look at the condition of your deck. Replace any rotting or split boards. Tighten screws and bolts along the boards and handrails. Check to make sure the stairs are stable and secure. Clean the surface with a commercial product or make your own deck cleaner. Once clean, sand out any stains and rough patches and then apply a coat of stain or paint to protect the surface.

Organize Supplies

Take the time to organize your lawn and garden supplies. You may think you will remember where that seed packet is six months from now. But don’t take a chance. Group like items together, record the activity of your garden, mark the location of bulbs and underground crops like garlic, and clearly label seeds, bulbs, and plant starts.

Store Seasonal Toys

Summer toys

In many parts of the country pools, grills, and patio furniture are only used a few months out of the year. The rest of the time, they need to be carefully stored to avoid rust, mold, and other damage. Since you’re cleaning up the deck anyway, make sure to clean and thoroughly dry your patio furniture. Then either move it to a dry covered area or stack it and cover with a tarp or furniture cover. Make sure the covering is tight so it doesn’t rattle in the wind. It’s best to place furniture up on furniture disks or wood blocks to protect the deck.

Also clean and store flower pots, fountains that are not safe for low temperatures, hoses, and garden tools. Be sure to winterize the pool too. If you have a play structure, check the bolts for tightness and re-stain if the wood looks unprotected. Remove swings and other accessories that could rust, dry out, or crack in the harsh winter conditions. Cover the trampoline to protect the metal frame and springs from snow and rain. Lawn ornaments, bird baths, and feeders might need shelter as the season comes to a close too.

Prep the Plants

As the seasons change, a look around your yard will give you an idea of what needs done with the garden, lawn, and flower beds. Your lawn will appreciate a final dose of fertilizer to feed it as you enter the cold weather season. It’s also a great time to aerate the lawn and fill in any bald patches. Any summer or leftover spring deadheading should be done before the temperature drops too. Deadheading at the end of the season creates healthier plants when spring blooms. Speaking of spring, fall is the time to get those bulbs into the ground. Daffodils, crocus, tulips, and hyacinth should all be underground so they can display their colors in early spring. If you remove your summer bulbs you can dig them up now for storage. In the garden, pull all expired plants and put them in the composter. Also rake up the leaves and add them to the mix. Give the compost pile a final fall stir since it breaks down at a slower rate when the temperature drops.

Give the Tools Some Love

Dirty Garden Tools

Your lawn and garden tools have worked hard for another season. Now is the time to show your appreciate with a little fall maintenance. Start by cleaning all of your shovels, rakes, hoes, and other tools. Make sure they are thoroughly dry before storing them. Leaving them exposed to weather will cause rust, rot, and other damage so make sure they are under cover whether that be in a garden shed, garage, or even under a well-secured tarp. Also make sure to properly store your lawn mower. This will be late in the season after the final mow. Clean your blade and underneath push mowers. Drain or run the gas out of both riding and push lawn mowers. Store mowers in a sheltered area.

Outside Home Care

Before Mother Nature brings her winter wrath, be sure to winterize the home and systems too. If you have an underground sprinkler system, blow it out prior to the first freeze. Winterize the RV if you have one to avoid pipes bursting a few months down the road. Place vent covers in the foundation vents or close the built-in covers to reduce the cold air that enters beneath your home. Clean out your fireplace or chimney, and chop and stack wood if you have a wood-burning stove. Make sure that your storm drains are flowing freely and that the downspouts and gutters are cleaned out. Fall is also the perfect time to inspect your roof for any potential damage that could lead to leaks, perform fence repairs around the yard or property, re-stain fencing, raised beds, and wooden benches, and clean out or breakdown the greenhouse in preparation of winter.

A little effort in the fall will make the lawn and garden work much more productive in the spring when you're once again eager to get out of the house!