If current predictions turn out to be true, this winter will go on record as being one of the harshest ever. Maybe you’ve been busy stocking up on firewood or winterizing your vehicle, but be sure to set aside some time to get your backyard ready for the frigid winter temperatures. As you prepare your to-do list, don’t forget the following items:

Clean up your yard

All those fallen leaves and branches that are covered with frost may look like a holiday card, but they really need to go, as do all the dying plants and past-their-prime flowers. A clean yard free of dead plants reduces the risk of any diseases spreading through your garden, and it also helps keep insects and bugs from burrowing in the debris and breeding. While you might be tempted to give your shrubs and trees a quick prune, refrain from doing so; when you cut back a plant it signals it to start growing, and you don’t want tender new branches to contend with sub-freezing weather.

Tend to your pool

Even though it’s too cold to use your pool during the winter, you should still maintain the chemicals and keep it as clean as possible. Keeping your pool chemicals at a healthy level now will make opening it back up in the spring or summer easier and less costly. Test the water now and throughout the winter (if it’s not frozen) to make sure the pH falls between 7.2 and 7.6, the alkalinity between 80 and 120 and the calcium hardness between 180 and 220.  If you are in an extremely cold part of the country, top off the pool plumbing with anti-freeze to keep it from freezing and becoming damaged.

Protect potted plants

As Practically Functional notes, roots do not go dormant over the winter, so it’s important to protect your potted plants’ roots from the cold. Move the pots to the shadiest part of the house — this will help the plants avoid swings in temperature and wrap each pot in an old blanket or towel. Add a thick layer of mulch to each pot and, if you have extra large pots on hand, consider placing smaller pots inside bigger vessels to add further insulation.

Put your equipment inside

Your grill, garden tools and backyard toys all need to be stored indoors during the cold winter months. A garage, storage shed or plastic storage unit are all great places to move and store your equipment. The only exception is propane tanks — these can stay outdoors and be covered with a tarp or heavy plastic bag. According to Outdoor Living Today, you should never store propane tanks indoors.

Drain and move your hoses

Hoses don’t like harsh weather anymore than your plants do, so unhook each one from the spigot, empty out all of the water, roll them up and put them away. Speaking of spigots, to prevent them from freezing, purchase some inexpensive faucet covers and cover each outdoor faucet.

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