A widow’s guide: Top Ten Tasks to prepare your yard for winter. (Comments encouraged – What did I leave out?)

Blog fall


Owning a home is great….until it’s not. When something breaks, leaks, cracks, explodes, ….who is going to fix it? Some of us have learned these skills from our own parents or from trial & error. Some of us have the means to hire out someone to fix it for us. Some of us have the resources of friends and family that will do it for us or help us do it. But for some of us that are widowed/divorced/single, being a homeowner can be overwhelming.


Every fall I scratch my head trying to recall all of the things I am supposed to do to get my yard ready for winter. No one enjoys standing out in the freezing cold trying to unscrew the hose…whilst trying not to let the bitter air make us bitter about our situation.  To change the course of my previous unpreparedness, I have come up with a list of Top 10 must-do’s to get your yard ready for winter.

1. Garden hoses

Disconnect them from the house, (“Lefty Loosey”) and drain any remaining water. Lay the hose on any sloped surface like a driveway or backyard hill. If you can leave it out on a sunny day for a few hours, even better. Once drained you can put the hose back on a reel and store in a shed, garage, or under a deck.

2. Lawn mowers

Some say to run them out of gas, though I’ve kept gas in mine most winters and haven’t had a problem (fingers crossed). Start keeping a written log of when these items are serviced – blades sharpened, oil added, tune ups. Springtime is often the best time to do this, but get that log started now. Come spring, you might not remember if you did it in the fall. Use a spiral notebook hung on a nail in the garage (it need not be fancy) where you can keep record of these maintenance events.


3. Irrigation system 

If you have an irrigation system, winterization is a must. Many landscaping companies offer this service for usually $50-$80 and if you can rally your neighbors together to get it done at the same time, there might be a group discount. It basically is an air compressor blowing the lines out, similar to the above-stated hose draining, but on a more powerful level. Some systems are self-draining but verify with the owner’s manual.


4. Snow, Snow go away!

If you think hiring a snow removal service is worth it….I agree with you. Personally I don’t have the strength, desire or time to shovel my driveway before work.  Look for landscaping companies that might offer a pre-season discount or neighborhood discount. But get it paid for now, before you have to scramble to find someone. On average, this will cost $200 per season.   If you decide to take on the winter fluff yourself, definitely get the machine out now and start it up, let it run for five minutes at a time, every couple of weeks so that it is in good working shape when you need it. If there’s a problem, you can get it in for repair early.

 5. Gas cans

Whether you have regular gas in a can for  a 4 cycle engine or the oil/gas mixture for a 2 cycle engine, make sure to use Sta-Bil fuel additive in them.  It basically keeps the gas “good” for several months.  It’s easy to use, just measure about an ounce for a gallon of gas, following the label instructions.


6. Windows/Screens

Check that that screens are tight or stored for the year.  Verify there are no cracks in the glass windows.  If there are cracks, get estimates now for repair or replace. You don’t want them to spread, get worse, or cause damage or injury. See if you can feel any drafts coming in around the windows.  If you suspect there is a draft, consider putting up 3M Window Insulator kits on windows that don’t get used or won’t get punctured by young kids/animals.  It is an easy process, involving double sided sticky tape, attaching plastic film and using  a hair dryer to heat it and take the wrinkles out.


7. Outside Doors

Consider adding an outside storm door if you don’t have one. During warmer months you can use a screen and in the cooler months use the glass insert. This provides another layer of insulation from the cold. Either way, you’ll want to make sure the foam insulation around the door jam is intact. Home improvement stores sell the replacement foam and it’s as easy as attaching the sticky side to the door, letting the foam on the other side help with stopping drafts of air.


8. Outside Dryer Vents

Check/Clean the outside dryer lint exit for the dryer… not only does this prevent fires, it will be easier to do now than when ice is pelting your red-cheeked face and you’re cursing “Pure Michigan.”


9. Garage/Shed clean out

Clean out and organize the garage and shed. You don’t want to be tripping over bikes and grills in January when looking for a snow scraper or shovel. And, you don’t want to tempt any rodents to make a cozy bed out of leaves or grass clippings that have collected on the garage floor. Is there space for your outdoor lawn furniture or outside kids’ toys? If you can’t move them into an enclosed space, at least cover them to prevent cracking. 


10. Prepare your car

I know…. this post was about preparing your house and yard, but multi-task a little bit and pack an emergency kit for your car. Include flashlights, window scrapers, a blanket, gloves, and a small shovel. There are other useful items that could be added to this kit, but at minimum, include these.


Hopefully you have people in your life you can call upon to help you with some of these tasks. If not, there’s always YouTube for further reference. And, while being a single/divorced/widowed homeowner can be a daunting situation, you can do this. You will either learn to ask for help with the tasks you really have trouble getting done or you might decide it’s worth the investment to hire it out .  But, maybe you’re like me and decide to conquer new tasks each year resulting in confidence that you’ve got this. Go you!


And, if you are a capable DIY’er that cares about people, think of someone in your life to whom you can offer this specific help…and offer it soon! They will appreciate it.

Special thanks to family friend Andy Waldron for helping provide me this information!