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14 Quick and Simple Yard Maintenance Things to Do in October

Tackle these outdoor tasks in October so you don't get behind with fall yard maintenance.

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FH16FEB_565_53_014-water-hose-1200x1200Family Handyman

Drain Garden Hoses to Avoid Having to Buy New Ones

You may sometimes neglect to drain garden hoses before putting them away for the winter. Usually, it’s not a problem. But every once in a while, freezing water splits a hose open. You may have to replace a few cheap hoses, or maybe an expensive one or two(ouch!). That’s just wasted money because draining hoses is so quick and easy: Blast out the water with an air compressor or stretch them out on a sloped yard or driveway.

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Drain Mechanical Sprinklers to Avoid Frozen Gears

I bought one of those sprinklers that looks like a little tractor. It’s designed to follow the path of the hose on the ground. It was expensive, but it worked perfectly for my irregular-shaped yard; that is until it spent the winter in my unheated garage. The residual water froze and destroyed the gears inside. The following spring, all it did was dribble water and make a clicking sound. I should have drained it before storing it. Just to be safe, I’ll keep the new one on a shelf in the basement.

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Winterize lawn mowerFamily Handyman

Winterize Your Lawn Mower

Don’t just shut off your lawn mower and leave it until spring — that’s a bad idea. Winterizing your mower only takes an hour. Give the deck a thorough cleaning, then, add fuel stabilizer and a few ounces of oil to make sure the engine will start right up without hesitation in the spring.

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Snowy outdoor furnitureIrina Mos/Shutterstock

Store Outdoor Furniture

Often overlooked but essential to keeping your outdoor living space in tip-top shape is cleaning and storing your garden furniture out of the elements. Fall is also a perfect time to clean up any rust, repaint or repair your garden furniture so it looks great when you uncover it in the spring. And make sure to winterize your garden, along with it.

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Take Care of Those Leaves

Once leaves are on the ground, put aside some time to tackle that chore.

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Fertilize lawnBochkarev Photography/Shutterstock

Fertilize Your Lawn

It’s important to apply fertilizer to your lawn during the fall — in fact, if you only apply fertilizer once a year, fall is the time to do it. Your lawn has spent all summer growing and it’s hungry.

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colorful flower pots with flowersgoldenjack/Shutterstock

Empty Pots and Planters

The water in soil left in empty flower pots and planters over winter can freeze and expand. Make sure to empty your clay and ceramic planters so they’ll survive for next season.

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winterize lawn mowerFamily Handyman

Three Easy Winterization Steps for Your Riding Mower

Before your riding mower hibernates for the winter, take a few minutes to prevent springtime headaches.

  • Moisture inside an unused engine leads to corrosion. ‘Fogging’ the engine — spraying an oily mist into each cylinder — prevents this. All you have to do is remove the spark plugs and blast in some aerosol fogging spray (sold at auto parts stores). Then reinstall the spark plugs.
  • Storing a battery that isn’t fully charged can lead to permanent damage, especially in cold weather. Connect the battery to a battery charger and charge it until you get a reading of 12.7 volts.
  • Stored gas will slowly gum up the whole fuel system, and the repairs can be expensive. So add a fuel stabilizer such as STA-BIL or Seafoam to the gas tank before winter. (Adding stabilizer to your gas can year-round is also a good idea.) But remember that stabilizers aren’t effective in gas that contains ethanol. If you don’t know whether the gas contains ethanol, run the engine until the tank is empty.

Another tip: Cover the air intake and exhaust openings with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep critters from homesteading in your engine over winter.

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Clean up roof and guttersIndy Edge/Shutterstock

Clean Out Your Gutters

Your gutters work hard over fall and winter, and they need your help. Clean them out before it gets too cold. This will prevent gutters from overflowing with rain or snow and damaging your roof.

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mulch your leaves fall autumnMeryll/Shutterstock

Mulch Your Leaves

Instead of raking your leaves into bags this fall, mow them with a mulching mower (a mower with a specially designed high deck). This chops the leaves into confetti, which acts as a natural fertilizer and weed control agent when left to decompose.

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seeds seeding dirt planting grasstimages/Shutterstock

Get Some Seed Down

If you’ve noticed patches of dead grass in your yard, address the issue now. Seeding can fix small problem areas. However, if your lawn has significant dead spots, sodding may be a better option.

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pull weeds lawn care tackle weedingRob Bayer/Shutterstock

Tackle Weeds

Now is the time to tackle weeds. Apply a herbicide and the weeds should stay away once spring comes. Be sure to read the label before applying, as most herbicide manufacturers recommend applying weed killer during the fall when daytime temperatures are still consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

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soil pH levelIllustration courtesy of Trevor Johnston

Test the Soil

Grass grows best when it’s in the “pH happy zone.” Grasses like a pH level between 6 and 7.2. If the soil is too acidic or too alkaline, the grass won’t thrive, even if you do everything else right. So collect one tablespoon-size sample from a couple of inches under the sod in three different places in your yard and take the three samples in for testing. Some garden centers offer the service, or search the Internet for “soil testing” to find a place to send it.

You’re after a pH between 6 and 7.2. If it’s too high, treat the lawn with iron sulfate or sulfur; too low and you’ll use pelletized limestone. Whoever does the testing will tell you what and how much to use to fix the pH. Applying the treatment is as easy as walking around the yard with a spreader.

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Remove Thatch

Thatch is the layer of slowly decomposing grass stems, roots, clippings and debris that accumulate at the soil surface over time. It can build up in your lawn and virtually choke it to death. Excessive thatch buildup is commonly found in lawns that have been over fertilized or over watered and have never been aerated. Thatch buildup of 3/4 inches or more will restrict water and nutrient penetration into the soil (think of a thatched roof) and can harbor disease organisms that can increase the need for pesticides. Slice open a section of turf. If the thatch is more than 3/4 inches thick, take action.

Regular core aeration will slow thatch development. However, it won’t do much to remove existing thatch. This can be done by renting a power rake, which will ‘lift’ the thatch from the soil surface. This thatch residue can then be raked by hand and removed. Dethatching is hard work, so it’s smart to prevent buildup in the first place. The best way to do that is to avoid over watering and over fertilizing.