Before the cold, snow and ice arrive, get your patio and yard ready for winter, as well as the inside of your house. A little do-it-yourself elbow grease now, and your home can be safer and warmer all winter long. Best of all, you can give your lawn and garden a head start when spring arrives next March.
Here’s a chore list:
• Fertilize lawn and garden with organic fertilizer; plant trees, perennials, shrubs.
• Put all ceramic and terra cotta plant pots, cement or stone birdbaths and sculptures inside or in a garage or shed.
• Put styrofoam plugs in foundation vent holes.
• Schedule an appointment to have the furnace checked by an HVAC company.
• Change the furnace air filters.
• Change the direction of ceiling fan blades.
• Use LED holiday lights.
Now, the how-to:
For the outdoor jobs, we checked in with Doug Stott, the owner and manager of Redmond Greenhouse and local garden radio program host.
Time: About three hours to fertilize the lawn or garden beds, plant a tree, shrubs or berry bushes, and plug foundation vent holes.
Cost: $50 to $100
• Organic fertilizer (e.g., Redmond Greenhouse’s Cold Climate Organic Fertilizer, for garden and flower beds, trees and shrubs, is $32.99 for 25 pounds, which covers a 500-square-foot garden. Their Cascade Natural Organic Fertilizer, $32.99 for 25 pounds, has more nitrogen and is in pellet form for easy application on lawns with a spreader. Many organic fertilizers are available at nurseries and other retail outlets.)
• Trees, shrubs or berry bushes, range from $4 to $100
• Styrofoam foundation vent-hole plugs, $2.50 to $5 for a two-pack
Step 1: Fertilize lawns and gardens, plant.
Stott said it’s a great time of year to fertilize your gardens and lawn with organic products.
“Autumn is the very best time of year to apply organic fertilizer to lawns, garden beds, trees and shrubs. Unlike chemical fertilizers, it won’t encourage growth as the plants are shutting down, and you’ll be richly rewarded in the spring,” Stott said.
Follow directions on the organic fertilizer of your choice.
Stott also said fall is a great time to plant trees, perennials and shrubs.
“Fall is for planting in our region, and the great thing is that many garden centers have specials on plants. When you plant in the fall, you gain almost one full season of established growth, versus waiting until spring to plant,” he said.
In a cold-climate gardening zone such as Central Oregon, fall is not the time to divide and transplant. “You risk winter dehydration when you divide and transplant plants here. The time to do that in our area is May,” Stott said.
Step 2: Bring plant pots, birdbaths and sculptures inside.
Freezing and thawing will destroy flower pots made of clay or terra cotta, and cement birdbaths and sculptures will crack and crumble, too. Put a heater in your birdbath if you want it to be outside all winter.
Step 3: Plug foundation vent holes.
When the weather is consistently cold, put vent plugs in foundation holes.
Jolie Perkins, service manager at Mountain View Heating, which has been in Central Oregon for nearly 35 years, told us it will help to keep your home warmer.
“If your home has any inefficiencies with insulation, or is a little leaky with air, and doesn’t keep all the heat in, the vent blocks can make a significant difference,” she said.
There’s plenty to do inside this time of year as well.
Time: Less than an hour to schedule a furnace checkup, change an air filter and switch the direction of ceiling fan blades.
Cost: About $125 for a furnace checkup.
• Furnace air filters ($6 to $35 each)
• LED holiday lights ($12 for 25-count string to $50 for 150-count string)
Step 1: Schedule furnace check-up.
Even though furnace manufacturers recommend a yearly maintenance check, many homeowners don’t do it that frequently.
“Your furnace is your most used appliance. It can be scary to have a furnace not work when you really need it. We recommend preseason preventive maintenance, just before the first cold snap. When you get a professional service check, we find things that need to be cleaned or repaired. We spot problems before they become emergencies, like no heat on Thanksgiving Day,” said Perkins.
Step 2: Change furnace filter.
Perkins told us that about 60 percent of the furnace shutdowns they service are caused by plugged air filters.
“Check your furnace filter frequently, and replace it every 90 days for sure. When it plugs up, it starves the furnace for air and shuts the system down,” Perkins said.
Step 3: Change ceiling fan direction.
Ceiling fans have a switch to change the direction of the blades. In the summer, you want to feel a cool breeze when you stand under the fan. That should be a counterclockwise direction of the blades.
In the winter, operate the fan at low speed in a clockwise direction to create an updraft, pulling the cooler air up, and forcing warmer air near the ceiling down.
Step 4: Use LED holiday lights.
Energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lights use 50 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands and can last up to 10 times longer than regular holiday lights, according to the Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov.) In the long run, you’ll save money and help the environment with LED lights.