In September, weather is even more unpredictable than usual. By the end of the month, average temperatures will have dropped 12 degrees. And while temperatures typically soar into the 90s for a day or two, snow shovels can make their first appearance.
If you’re new to Stepping Stone or Colorado, you’ll want to check out the winterizing tips below. Your beautiful new home and yard require just a little bit of attention this month. Then you can relax, knowing that everything is shipshape for the chilly season that lies ahead.
1) Tidy up your perennials. Colorado’s extreme temperature fluctuations and dry winds can brutalize many of our commonly planted perennials. And, as any long-suffering vegetable gardener will tell you, our first hard frost can land in September—which means that the foliage of most perennials starts to wither this month. If you prefer to remove dead foliage right away, gently apply mulch to protect the plant from the winter elements. (Always remove diseased foliage to avoid the spread of leaf-spot diseases and fungal problems.) Alternatively, you can wait to remove dead foliage in the spring.
2) Keep your plants hydrated. Our winter snows can be heavy and frequent…or irregular and insufficient. Make sure your landscape has the moisture it needs with a layer of mulch that’s several inches thick. Mulch should be coarse and loose, such as shredded leaves, to permit air movement to the roots. Become a mulch expert here. Also, water at least monthly under dry winter conditions. Apply water mid-day, and only when it’s 40 degrees or warmer.
3) That goes for your trees, too. If you’re a new Stepping Stone owner, you should know that new trees are more susceptible to winter drought. Your trees will absorb water best with a slow soak into the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Apply water to many locations under the drip line and beyond, ideally with a deep-root fork or needle. Read the how-tos of tree and shrub watering here.
4) Replace your furnace filter. Even if you’re not turning on the heat yet, you will soon. Be ready for the chill with a nice, clean furnace filter so you can breathe easier and improve energy efficiency. By the way, you should do this every month, since a clean filter minimizes wear and tear on your furnace. Buy a bundle, so you have them ready. Mark the date on each new filter as you install it.
5) Unclog your gutters and downspouts. Naturally you’ll want to do a touch-up after all the autumn leaves have fallen, but cleaning out gutters and downspouts prevents serious damage from trapped rain, snow, and ice. Do it yourself if you’re comfortable, or play it safe and leave the climbing to a pro.
6) Flush the water heater. Over time, particles and sediment can collect in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out the material and keep your heater healthy and long-lived. Because who wants a frigid shower on a cold morning? Watch this how-to video.
7) Rotate ceiling fans clockwise. And you thought ceiling fans were just for summer. Use these smart energy-savers year-round by reversing them in a clockwise direction. That way, fans will push the hot air near the ceiling down towards the floor.
8) Inspect your chimney. New Colorado fireplaces are gas-burning, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about the chimney altogether. Critters sometimes move in—which can spell disaster. Call a chimney sweep to inspect your chimney and clean out any hazardous debris.
9) Protect your pipes. Temperatures can get ugly around here fast, so don’t leave your pipes vulnerable to the freeze, thaw, and burst cycle—which can create a world of water damage and icky mold growing. Weatherproof your plumbing by shutting off the supply of water to outdoor spigots and sprinkler systems, and then drain them. (Depending on your irrigation system, you may also need a contractor to blow out any excess moisture with compressed air.) Read more about how to protect your pipes while you’re away from home.
10) Just say no to CO. That is, carbon monoxide. Before winter hits, make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and replace old batteries. If you cook on a gas range, use the fan on your stove hood to vent to the outside and reduce your carbon monoxide exposure. Adjust your burners so you get a nice blue flame; a yellow-tipped flame produces more emissions.