Maine winter is officially on its way, with many parts of the state seeing the first snowfall this week. In the next installment of our “Prep for Winter Series,” our agents share their personal household tips and advice to homeowners and clients on plowing, shoveling, pre-snow yard work, and more. Read the first installment about firewood and heating systems maintenance here.
Prep Outdoor Spaces
There are many things to do outside to prepare for months of snow. “We store our lawn furniture in the basement and paddleboard and boat accessories in our shed as we know we won’t use those throughout the winter months,” says agent Carrie Martin, based in our Portland office.
“If you have a bird bath,” says Brunswick-based agent Kristie Jorgensen, “clean it and store it so it does not collect water that will freeze and crack the bowl over the winter.”
General outdoor preparation tips:
- Securely store and cover your outdoor furniture and summer gear.
- Empty and store ceramic and plastic flower pots so the frozen dirt doesn’t crack the pots.
- Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor spigots and drain to prevent freezing pipes. If they aren’t frost-free, you can cover them with insulated foam caps. If you have an outdoor shower, be sure to turn off the water and drain the pipes.
- For waterfront properties, haul in docks and boat ramps. Change your moorings over to a winter mooring.
- After the last leaf falls, clean your gutters to prevent ice dams.
General Garden Tips
“We have a large vegetable garden and many maple trees on our property, so we spend this time of year pulling and composting all the dead plants in the garden,” says agent Carrie Martin. “I still have carrots, onions, and brussel sprouts in the ground which will last a little while longer. We also spend a lot of time cleaning up and composting the fallen leaves so they don’t damage our lawn and flower garden beds.”
“Putting the garden to bed is always a bittersweet activity,” says agent Pat Thatcher, based in our Portland office. “I cut back the bushes – rose bushes, butterfly bushes, other smaller landscaping shrubs in October. Sometimes I let the perennials that have seed pods just stay there for the winter and cut them back first thing in the spring. I pack pine needles around the blueberry bushes; they love the pine needles!”
Agent Kristie Jorgensen is also a Master Gardener and has many tips for the fall cleanup in the garden:
- Protect rose bushes and other vulnerable perennials and shrubs by mounding up soil, compost, shredded leaves, or evergreens at least 8-10 inches high around the base of the plant. Mounding will stabilize the temperature around the plant, avoiding damage caused by the constant freeze/thaw of the winter weather and inclement spring weather.
- Protect young trees from voles, rabbits, and deer that damage bark at the base of the trunk by surrounding the trunk with a tree guard. There are various guards available at your local hardware store or garden center. Plastic guards should only be used from late November until early spring as they can damage the bark if left on year-round. Caging and fencing can stay on year-round.
- Plant bulbs like tulips and daffodils in late fall. Pro tip: Sprinkle hot pepper flakes around the bulbs and under a light surface of dirt to prevent hungry critters from digging them up and munching on them.
Prep for Pest Control
Given the time of year with morning frost and temps going below freezing, rodents are looking for nice places to keep warm for the winter. Agent Lois Lengyel from the Portland office recommends checking the perimeter of your property to make sure there are no open cracks, wood rot holes, or exposed vents. “Having a professional pest control service do this is always recommended,” she adds. “If there is evidence of rodents already in your home, you need to set traps to remove as soon as possible in order to avoid infestations.”
Prep for Plowing & Shoveling
Make sure you have lined up the company or friendly neighbor who will be plowing your driveway this winter. If you are new to your neighborhood, ask around for local recommendations. Some charge per storm and others for the season. If you are planning to plow your own driveway, make sure the components of the truck all work before the first big storm hits.
“Be sure to send the plows love,” adds Brokerage Services Specialist Dana Whittaker, who relocated from sunny San Diego to snowy Maine during the pandemic. “They keep our roads clear all winter. We like to dig the fire hydrants out in our neighborhood for the firefighters as well.”
If you are unable to shovel the walkways outside your home, be sure to also arrange a snow shoveler to help out this winter.
Other plow, shovel and winter travel tips:
- Install reflective plow stakes along the perimeter of your driveway so plows know the bounds.
- Keep mixed gravel or salt near entryways or in the garage to sprinkle on icy walkways.
- Do an inventory of your snow shovels and/or snowblower to be sure everything is in working order.
- Put windshield scrapers and brushes in your car, and pack the trunk with emergency supplies including an extra blanket, water, and hand warmers.
- Invest in crampons to slide on your boots for icy conditions.
- Many Mainers use winter tires, or even studded tires, for the snowy season. If you live in a rural area with lots of hills, this is the safest way to travel in the winter.