Simple Ways To Winterize Your Lawn In The Midwest

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When the leaves start to fall, it’s time to start your fall yard clean up. Here are 10 simple ways to winterize your lawn for winter!

Lawn care tips for every homeowner! Getting your yard ready for the long months of winter in the midwest is something that should not be overlooked. Before the snow falls, tackle these easy tasks to help get a jump start on your yard maintenance for spring!

When the leaves start to fall, it's time to start your fall yard clean up. Here are 10 simple ways to winterize your lawn for winter!

When To Winterize Your Lawn

When it comes to winterizing your lawn for fall, it’s best to complete these tasks before the weather takes a turn and the snow starts to fall.

By completing these fairly easy tasks, you will be setting yourself and lawn up for success in the spring. A little bit of extra work now, makes the clean up process that much easier in the spring! You’ll be thankful for taking the couple of extra steps now, when the weather is still warm and enjoyable!

Come spring, you can spend your time building beautiful planter boxes for your flowers, raised garden beds to make your garnering a little easier or even a cute flag pole to spruce up your curb appeal!

Let’s Deep Dive into 10 Tips For Fall Yard Clean Up!

1. Re-Harvest Fallen Leaves

Before raking your leaves into a heaping pile, or blowing them to the street curb for the city to haul away, place your lawnmower on the mulch setting and chop those leaves up! With the help of snow and rain over the fall and winter months, the nutrients from the leaves will break down and be absorbed back into the soil. These extra nutrients will give you a jump start on a healthy lawn for spring! Achieving soil balance helps keeps weeds at bay and reduces the need to fertilize. Your best defense against weeds is a healthy lawn.

*Note: not every lawn mower has a mulch option, be sure to check with your manufacturer to see if your mower can mulch. For push mowers (aka walk behind), I recommend a self-propelled mower.

Tools needed: utility rake, leaf blower (we have this one and I love that it is battery!), mower that mulches

Husqvarna lawn tractor mowing yard in fall with leaves

2. Divide Perennials & Transplant

Now that you’ve seen how large your plants get after a long summer, it’s time to divide your larger perennials and transplant them to more locations. Always be careful when dividing or transplanting plants; begin digging further out from the root ball to ensure that you don’t damage any additional roots. Once the “new” plant is ready to be transplanted add some fertilizer to the base (in the hole), place the plant and water.

Tools needed: garden work gloves, Felco F-2 hand pruner, hand shovel/transplanter

sedum plant - When the leaves start to fall, it's time to start your fall yard clean up. Here are 10 simple ways to winterize your lawn for winter!

3. Rake and Repair

Before aerating or overseeing, spend time raking any dead areas or removing thatch and other debris. If your lawn has a particularly heavy mat of material close to the dirt, you may want to rent a dethatcher (instead of an aerator) which will help break up the the matting, allowing for more nutrients to reach the soil. If there are any holes or other tripping hazards, now is the time to fill and prep them for new grass. (Note on dethatching, this is more often needed with lawns that spread and grow with shoots; a.k.a., rhizomes and stolons).

Tools needed: utility rake, bow rake (for tough areas), and a metal leaf rake (works great for spreading grass seed as well!)

wheel barrow and rake

4. Aerate Your Lawn

Aerating your lawn after the long hot months of summer is important to create a passage for nutrients and water to reach the grass roots. Aerators can be rented for a reasonable price at your local hardware store or large equipment dealer. Once completed, leave the grass/dirt plugs to decompose back into your lawn.

Tools needed: lawn tractor aerator or a handheld push aerator roller
Tip: we personally choose to rent a commercial grade aerator from a local equipment rental dealer to make things much easier and faster since we have a large yard…and then don’t need to find the space to store another lawn item!

5. Overseeding

It may seem strange to plant grass seed in your lawn in the process of winterizing your lawn for winter. But, fall is a great time to overseed because the soil is still warm and will help germinate the seeds. By overseeding your lawn you are naturally preventing weeds! Thick, full grassy lawns, naturally weed out weeds! Rake patchy areas of grass followed by spreading additional grass seed down. Be sure to consult your local lawn and garden shop to find out what type of grass seed grows best in your geographical area.

Tools needed: broadcast spreader

man overseeding yard with seeder - how to winterize your lawn

6. Create A Compost Pile

Composting leaves and plants from your own yard is the best way to create nutrient-rich soil that will help benefit your yard for seasons to come. Locate a space in your yard that will be large enough to contain all of the fallen leaves and cut shrubs and plants from your yard clean up. Avoid putting too many sticks in your compost pile because they take much longer to break down. Over time, you will notice that your compost pile begins to “shrink” in height, that is because the leaves and plants are breaking down into rich soil. Wait until next season to “turn” (rotate) your compost soil with a rake. It’s best to pull back the top layers of compost to expose the bottom layer that will be very dark, rich soil. Use this soil in garden beds, container pots and in areas where yard needs to be leveled.

Tools needed: wheel barrow, bow rake

large pile of compost in yard next to wheel barrel

7. Clean Out Garden Beds

Following the thriving months of your summer garden, it is now time to cut down the now barren plants to soil level for fall yard clean up. Leave all plant clippings in your garden beds, this will help protect the soil from the colder months as well as create new, nutrient-rich soil for the next growing season.

Tools needed: garden work gloves, Felco F-2 hand pruner, bow rake

children cleaning out raised garden beds for winter - 10 tips to prepare your lawn for winter

8. Spread New Mulch

The hot summer sun most likely depleted the mulch in your landscaped areas of your yard. During Fall, before the cold weather truly sets in, is the best time to lay fresh mulch overtop of old mulch to create a new barrier for the cold months. This mulch helps protect plant roots nearby as well as the soil. This will also aid in the old mulch decomposing into nutrient-rich soil.

Tools Needed: wheel barrow and shovel

pile of red mulch with true temper wheel barrel and shovel - 10 tips to winterize your lawn

9. Plant New Trees and Shrubs

Fall is a great time to plant new trees and shrubs in your yard. The cooler fall temperatures allow the trees and shrubs an opportunity to begin growing without burning them out from the summer heat. Talk to your local garden shop to find out which trees and shrubs will do best in your area. Follow watering guidelines per each tree and shrub.

man planting new juniper trees in yard - 10 tips for fall yard clean up

10. Power Washing

If you didn’t get to power washing this past spring, fall isn’t a bad time to do it either.

Now is the time to get a ahead start on Spring clean up. Using a power washer (this one is my favorite and you can see it in use here), clean your raised garden beds, sidewalks, driveway, exterior doors, porch and siding. Fall is a messy time and creates lots of debris, dust and dirt. Clean all of this before sits for several months during the cold months of winter.

SUNJOE pressure washer  - 10 tips for fall yard clean up

In Conclusion

Cleaning up your yard in fall in preparation for winterizing your lawn, is not extremely difficult nor time consuming. While all of these tips may not apply to your personal yard, following a general clean -up guide will be helpful and set you up for less work in the spring.

4 Comments

  1. Paula@SweetPea says:

    Great tips! I pile all of our leaves behind our shed and then the next year use them for mulch in my vegetable garden.

  2. You sound very organized…. thanks for the ideas. I cared more about our back yard before we got a dog. Then I gave up…..! Oh well! ?

    1. haha!!!… I hear ya! I should have mentioned, pick up dog poop! When we lived in the South, the hot sun baked it into the ground…now, here in Wisconsin, it just freezes and then melts in the spring.

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