Friday, October 19, 2012

A few last outdoor jobs for the to-do list

Frugality is more than just being mindful of what we spend. It also includes giving care and maintenance to the things we already own.  Most of us have a list of chores we take care of every fall before the first freeze. These chores give years of use to our home and belongings.

We bring in the garden hoses, because otherwise, if they freeze with water still inside they could burst, or develop a crack. (Still need to do this one.)

We clean our rain gutters, because if we don't, and they become clogged, water that spills over could set up a situation for rot to develop in the adjacent wood structures. (Most of ours done, but one area still needs scooping out.)

We cover, or bring in, vulnerable patio and deck furniture. I spent many hours sanding, priming and repainting some pieces of wood furniture on our deck this summer. I want to protect the work I did, and hopefully not need to repaint so soon. (I finally got some covers ordered this week!)

We bring back inside our houseplants that we give over to the summer elements, for a few months every year. Otherwise it's adios houseplants. (Am I the only one who takes houseplants outside for summer sun and free rain watering? I take all but the African violets out in late Spring and bring back in October. I just brought them in this week. Let's hope I'm in time. Last year I was a few days late and our weeping fig tree lost all of its leaves for winter :-o Poor thing, looked pathetic until it sprouted new leaves.)

We prune branches from trees that could catch the wind, break off and cause damage to our house. (Still need to do a bit of this. I may need to buy a tool for this work. My years on a high ladder may have come to an end.) But do not get too prune-happy and start pruning all the shrubs and trees in your yard. Pruning is best done in mid-winter (Jan and Feb for northern hemisphere), when plants are dormant. Pruning now could result in the plant putting on new growth, which would be tender and subject to damage with frost and freezes.

We clean up leaves on walkways, the lawn, and those on top of plants that could develop fungus should a pile of leaves sit on them all winter. (We'll be raking until late November. that's just how long it takes for them all to fall here.)

With all those leaves and pine needles, we mulch our beds, to protect the investment in our landscape plants. Mulching keeps the soil warmer in winter, cooler in summer, suppresses those pesky weeds and holds water. Put up to 3 inches of mulch around plants in beds and borders. (We'll get to this when all the raking is done!)

We do 1 last mowing of the lawn, neither too high, nor too short. Scalping the lawn will put stress on it, not a good thing going into winter. Also, in most areas, there's no benefit to fertilizing lawns in fall, despite what the chemical companies tell us. If wanting to improve the soil where your lawns sits, one of the best ways to do this is by leaving the clippings and shredded leaves (from mowing) on top. It won't be very attractive at first, but by winter's end, this mulch will have broken down significantly, and will feed the soil in early spring, just as new growth begins.

While I'm working on my to-do list, it's easy for me to forget that what I'm really doing is preserving what's already been purchased. We're saving money by doing these chores. Reminding myself of this helps me to get it all done in time for those cozy days indoors, armchair gardening with a seed catalog, and dreaming of the idyllic days of next summer.

What am I overlooking? I'm sure there are many maintenance chores left off this brief list. What's left on your outdoor to-do list?

26 comments:

  1. Similar jobs to do here, albeit on a smaller scale. I like to put house plants in the summer for a bit of fresh air too. Also on my list is to plant some winter pansies, for a bit of winter colour.

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      My dad always planted winter pansies. Does it freeze much where you live? I've never planted them here because I thought they'd freeze in just a bit.

      And someone else who puts their houseplants outside in summer. I thought I was the only one who did this. I read about it years ago in a magazine, and one of the benefits is the leaves get all washed off, so I don't have to dust them!

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    2. It doesn't freeze too much here, so the pansies normally survive!

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    3. Lucky you! I hope you find some lovely colors to choose from. I'll just have to content myself with my indoor African violet this winter (that thing has lasted for years and years, no matter how much I neglect it!)

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  2. This is my first time commenting here. I love your blog, and try to read it everyday.

    My husband is disabled, so I tackle most of the big outdoor jobs. For your tree branches close to your house, that you are wanting to remove, I finally bought this extension pole branch clipper. It has paid for itself already, in my not needing to hire a fix-it man to do the job. I bought my tool at Home Depot. You might want to look there for one.

    Another chore to add to the list is taking the window screens off and putting the storm windows back on.

    Again, I love your blog. Thanks for the inspiration daily!

    Helen

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    1. Hi Helen,
      Thanks for commenting! And I am glad that our enjoy my blog.

      I'll check Home Depot for a branch pruner. Thanks for the suggestion. Is it much of a chore to get the storm windows on each fall? No storm windows here. But I imagine they help keep your house free of drafts in winter.

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  3. Another outdoor job for the list.
    I take my patio umbrella covering off of the frame, and give it a good washing before putting it away to store for the winter. Love this post :-) btw.

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    1. Hi Janice,
      After reading your suggestion for the to-do list, I was just looking outside and saw just how dingy our umbrella is looking. I've never washed it before. Thanks for the reminder. I hope I can get mine clean!

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  4. Our winters are relatively mild. We're still doing regular mowings of the yard....so that isn't over for us, although they have slowed down.

    I want to get the windows washed and really need to replace a door. However, hubby has asked me to hold off on that for a few more week.s

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    1. Hi Shara,
      Well, as you said, at least the mowings are less frequent now. Our lawn needs one last mowing for the season, and that'll pick up a lot of the leaves at the same time. I need to finish the window washing around here. I started it then got side-tracked. Hope you're having a good day!

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  5. No lawn to mow here! lol! I'm in the desert, and my front yard is a rockery. But I do like to keep a few pots of annuals by the front door. I'm heading out to pick up a flat of annuals now. They'll be blooming beautifully by December.

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    1. HI Sandy,
      Oooh, flowers in December! Now I'm envious! What will you plant? Do you do pansies, too?

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  6. I panicked a few weeks ago during a cold spell and washed our exterior windows. Our outdoor watering system uses a pump and we have to turn it off when it starts freezing consistently ... which means, no more outdoor water. I use the Windex window washing system where you spray your water onto the window and use a telescoping pole to wash them. Not your most economical system, probably, but neither my husband or I like ladders, so it works for us.

    You inspired me to paint my outdoor lawn furniture! I have a metal table and chairs that I've been procrastinating on painting--I did it a few weeks ago (yup, lots of drips!) and I feel so good about it now!

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    1. Hi Kris,
      So you like the Windex system? I've seen it advertised and thought about it. We can't get to the upstairs windows without risking life and limb. And neither my husband nor I like tall ladders either. I'll check to see if Home Depot carries this when I stop in there next week. And I think it is an economical thing, depending on how you look at it. I know a lot of folks who hire someone to come wash their windows. So doing it yourself with the Windex equipment would be the frugal alternative.

      I'm glad my furniture painting inspired you to do yours. Inspiration like that is cyclical, so to speak. Hearing of your painting will now motivate me to repair and paint the one last chair, so our set can look complete! I don't worry about the drips on outdoor stuff. No one ever notices!

      Hope the freezes are over for the time being and you're enjoying glorious Indian summer!

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    2. We have a ranch home and I still don't like ladders! One Windex pad works for our entire home. It does a pretty good job--not perfect, but after one rain here, the windows are all spotted up again, anyway--so really, it isn't that extravagent.

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    3. That's good to know. We get that sideways rain here, a lot. And that spots up our windows quickly. But it's nice to start the winter with clear windows.

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  7. run out of gass the last time you mow for the season. it's not good for the motor for the gas to sit in it for months. Nows a good time to get the blade sharpened too.

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    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      Oh another good set of suggestions! And we just recently found the sharpening tool for the blades (it had gone missing for months!). I'll add this to my own list. Thanks!

      I hope this weekend brings us some sun!

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  8. oh my,I'd better get busy with all of the fall chores you and your readers reminded me of.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      there does seem to be a lot to do in fall. But fortunately, one good weekend of work and it's all done for the season (then it's armchair gardening for me for a few months!).

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  9. We started our winter prep work outside already as well. The window got new caulking, and the plants have been covered, bulbs planted for spring, the field was mowed Saturday and this Saturday the tarp is being put on the outdoor furniture. So we're in pretty good shape.

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    1. Hi Lois,
      It sounds like you're about done for the season. Then it's cozy days indoors for a while.

      We have a couple of windows my husband was going to caulk. But it turned cold and wet. I'm not sure if you can caulk when it's so damp. What do you think?

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  10. I fear my list is long and probably won't get finished. The biggies are painting the trim & the rest of the garage - this job was supposed to get done last fall but alas, I didn't get to it, and then it was just SOOOOO hot this summer, and now that it's cooled down all I want to do is ride my bike!

    I had grandiose plans for expanding my xeriscape this fall, but I sorta doubt I'll get to it. I also want to get some gutter protectors for the new gutters. I'm looking at these funny foam-like inserts that are supposed to work well for pine needles and tiny locust leaves which is what we've got.

    And the window glazing really needs to be replaced on a few of the window panes... and the storm windows have some broken parts so they keep slipping out of their tracks...

    Hmmmm... the common thread in all the tasks that I'm avoiding is the ladder. I just hate it so. I even bought a new extension ladder that's lighter and has better rungs that the old one, but it still scares the bejeezus out of me!

    I just have to take it one step at a time...

    BTW - thanks for the tip on pruning - I never knew that!

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    1. Hi Cat,
      that is one monumental list! I know what you mean about ladders. I'm okay for first story stuff like gutter cleaning, but getting up to the second floor gutters, windows and woodwork is just so scary. For me, it's that the ground below doesn't seem level and equally firm. So the ladder feels like it'll tip easily.

      Good luck prioritizing your work!

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  11. I like to give the propane barbecue a good cleaning and make sure the cover is on tight before the snow falls. I also lightly oil garden tools like the pruners and clippers so they don't rust in the shed over the winter.

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    1. Hi anexactinglife,
      Our barbeque is charcoal. I should really give the grill a good cleaning before putting it away. Oh, yet another thing to do! I need to get cracking on my list! And you're right, oiling the clippers/pruners will really protect the blades. I wonder if it's very difficult to sharpen blades on clippers. I left mine out in the rain a while back and they haven't been the same since.

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