Winter is right around the corner, and that means your lawn is just about ready to pack it in for the year. But before the snow flies, there are still a few things you need to do to ensure that you’ll have a healthy lawn ready to spring up after the big melt.

Fall (September through November, specifically) is the ideal time to fertilize your lawn for healthy grass in the coming year. Because of the grass-friendly weather conditions, fall is generally a time of regrowth and recovery from summer lawn damage. In fact, many experts say that the fall lawn-feeding is the most important fertilization of the entire year, so don’t let it fall by the wayside! If you haven’t done so already this season, “winterize” your lawn with a specialized fall fertilizer to feed and strengthen the roots and improve nitrogen storage during the cold months.

Protect your grass from being smothered by leaves
If your home is blessed with the shade of trees in the summer, chances are you’ll be doing a significant amount of raking or leaf-blowing in November. It’s certainly not any fun, but when those leaves begin to clump up — especially when they’re wet — they can block out sunlight and air and actually smother your grass. It’s important to make sure that any areas of thick leaf-cover are removed so that your lawn can continue to “breathe.”

Don’t quit mowing until grass stops growing
It’s important to control grass height until your lawn is done growing for the year. From a practical standpoint, when grass is too long, the tips flop over on themselves and create a layer of shade that could smother the grass underneath (and create an environment for snow mold). It also helps to mulch up any leaves lying around (small amounts only) and allows for the easier application of your winterizing fertilizer. But don’t cut it too short, either! You need to leave enough height for the leaves to keep up with proper photosynthesis. Three inches should be sufficient.

When the snow comes, don’t use regular salt
If you live in a region where November means the start of the snowy season, it can be tempting to pour a big pile of water softener rock salt onto the first ice you see. For the best lawn and garden health, however, experts actually suggest switching from regular salt to an alternative snow-melt product like calcium chloride. Typical winter salt is sodium chloride, which can actually burn the grass and leave it looking brown and yellow in the spring. Calcium chloride, on the other hand, won’t hurt the grass — and the calcium could even be beneficial to your garden plants.

Whatever methods you choose, be sure to keep in good communication with your landscaping company when doing any major fall work on your lawn or garden. Come spring, it will be important that they have all the information necessary to keep your yard in tip-top shape.