Winterizing Your Home and Yard

 Whether your yard consists of hardscapes, softscapes, or a combination of the two, it’s important to winterize it for the cold months.

Neglecting to properly winterproof your home and yard can result in dire consequences. To avoid broken pipes, flooding, or nutrient-poor garden beds come spring, implement these tips for winterizing your property.

Winterizing Your Home and Yard

When to Winterize Your Property

You may be surprised to learn that the winterization process should begin in autumn. Before it’s too cold In your hardiness zone, get a head start on some winterization steps.

Hardiness Zones

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides the continental states into hardiness zones based on degrees Fahrenheit. This guide helps gardeners determine which plants will thrive in their region based on climate.

Hardiness zones range from 1a to 13b, and they outline the average, minimum winter temperature expected in that region. If you live in the northern states of the US, you’re closer to zone 1a and will need to winterize sooner than the southern and west coasts states, which hover around zones 8a - 10a/b. You can find your specific zone via the plant hardiness maps provided by the USDA HERE.

Tips for Winterizing Your Yard

Your lawn goes dormant for winter, so consider winterizing a way to tuck it in for the cold months until it’s ready to start growing again before spring.

Lawn

Depending on what type of turf you have, the process may vary slightly. Warm- vs cool-season grass may require a different type of fertilizer, but it should always be applied in October or November before the snow hits. Another tip is to stay on top of leaf removal so you don’t end up with dead spots on your grass due to leaves rotting under the snow. Leaves are great mulch for flower beds and compost, but they’re a nuisance when left to accumulate on the lawn.

Trees and Shrubs

If you’re going to do any pruning before winter, be sure you have a good window of time before the first frost hits. Trimming too late in the seasons means your trees and shrubs won’t have time to prepare raw edges to survive the cold. If you’re not sure about when temperatures will drop, put off pruning until spring to encourage new growth.

Annuals vs Perennials

Annuals are plants that live for one life cycle and then die. Perennials are plants that resow and come back year after year.

Before winter, remove spent annuals from your flower beds. Trim and divide perennials so they can overwinter and bloom again in spring. Fall is also the time to plant new bulbs so they can delight you with new growth when the temperatures warm again.

Outdoor Furniture

Often overlooked, outdoor furniture should be prepped for winter as well. Clean your tables, chairs, and cushions before covering them with weatherproof material for winter. If you can, bring cushions and umbrellas inside or store them in a shed to protect them from moisture.

Winterizing Your Home

If you have a vacation home in a cold climate, you need to prepare it for winter as an empty residence. The last thing you want to do is arrive in the spring and find damage due to the freezing temperatures. Additionally, the home you live in year-round should undergo some winterization so you can stay warm and cozy.

Tips for an Empty Home

You have some choices when prepping an empty home for winter. You can turn off your water source and clear the lines (inside and outside), or you can leave the water on and use the furnace to keep them warm.

Turn off the Water

Interior plumbing and outdoor sprinkler systems can be flushed after the water is turned off to the home and property. In order to ensure the pipes are clear, be sure to turn on all the faucets and flush the toilets. 

Close the water lines to the washing machine, dishwasher, and/or water heater as well. Disconnect your hoses from exterior faucets and open them up; any water remaining in the lines will be drained, and you or a plumber can follow up by blowing air through the pipes as well.

Set the Thermostat

You can also leave the water on, especially if someone will be making periodic use of the home during the winter. If that’s the case, set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees F to protect the pipes.

To ensure heat circulates enough to keep interior plumbing pipes from freezing, open cabinet doors under sinks, and leave bedroom doors open as well. You’ll still need to drain outdoor plumbing (sprinklers, hose faucets), but everything inside should be fine if the furnace is still running.

Water Flow Sensors

No matter what you choose when you winterize your plumbing, installing a water flow sensor can bring peace of mind. Connected to your phone via an app, the sensor can let you know if there’s a change in water flow and alert you to any potential leaks.

Yard Care/Snow Removal

To prevent your home from looking abandoned, make arrangements for periodic yard care and regular snow removal services in your absence. Before you leave for the season, cut back your perennials, remove spent annuals, dig up delicate bulbs, and clear your vegetable garden. Compost any plant trimmings you can, and store your bulbs in sawdust in a cool, dry place.

You can fertilize your garden beds with any leaves that have already fallen, or apply a fresh layer of store-bought mulch. Additionally, fall is the time to feed your lawn with a slow- or fast-release fertilizer before you leave town. You want to give your yard the tools it needs to successfully complete its natural life cycles that help produce nutrient-rich soil every year for your plants.

Winterizing a Pool or Pond

For water features on your property, follow the tips from Cottonwood Landscapes on how to winterize. You can perform the cleaning and add the winter chemicals yourself, or rely on the professionals to do it for you. If you have outdoor water fountains or birdbaths, drain them and cover them to prevent cracking.

Tips for an Occupied Home

Obviously, many of us live in one home year-round. Winterizing looks a little different when you stay put, but there are still things to be done. 

Yard and Plumbing

Complete all the yard prep suggested above, remembering to disconnect hoses and blow out sprinkler lines. If you have access to your home’s main water line via a room or crawlspace in your home, be sure it stays heated. That may mean opening the panel in the wall so the warm air is better directed toward it or adding insulation. 

Control Air Flow

Did you know your ceiling fans turn in two directions? In winter, you can reverse your fans (usually with a little switch on it) so they pull cool air toward the ceiling, forcing warmer air down. 

Before the temps plummet, check for drafts around doors and windows. You can reinforce seals, or add temporary, plastic film to particularly drafty windows for a quick fix. Check your attic for drafts as well, and consider blowing new insulation or installing traditional insulation panels to prevent warm air from escaping through the roof.

Furnace Filters

It’s your furnace’s time to shine, so be sure you’re regularly replacing the filter during the winter. Typically, it’s recommended that filters are changed every 90 days, so install a new one at the onset of winter and switch it out for a new one after the new year.

If you have questions about winterizing your home, you can always schedule an energy audit. The experts can help determine where you’re lacking efficiency, and how you can make improvements. You’ll not only live more comfortably, but you’ll likely save money as well.

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