You might be thinking, with relief, that landscaping season is over. But it’s not really. It’s just changed a bit. Instead of digging, mowing, and raking, now it’s hanging lights, putting up holiday decor, and dealing with the snow and ice.
Don’t get depressed, though; it’s not as bad as it sounds! We’ve got some tips and advice to help you get through holiday landscaping tasks efficiently and safely.
Putting Up Christmas Lights
To get your lights up as efficiently as possible, it’s best to start with a little pre-planning. If you have lights already, take them out and test them to make sure they all work. Double-check how many strands you can safely plug together end to end at the same time.
If you are getting new lights this year, decide where you want to put them and measure everything, so you know exactly how much you need to buy. There’s nothing worse than being one strand short and going back to the store only to find out that the specific color, style, or size you need is sold out.
Pro-tip: wear a work belt, and stuff the pockets full of universal light clips and any tools you’ll need.
If you moved to a new house this year, or if this is your first season putting lights up, figure out where your outlets are located and what you’ll need for extension cords. Make sure you use outdoor-rated extension cords.
Safety first: if you’re using a ladder to hang your lights, take a few safety precautions. Have a helper to steady the ladder and spot you. Never stand on the very top rung of a ladder. Make sure you have both hands on the ladder when climbing up or down. Don’t try to put up your Christmas lights in lousy weather like during a snowstorm or freezing rain; it’s not worth the risk.
Pro-tip: wear a work belt, and stuff the pockets full of universal light clips and any tools you’ll need, so you don’t have to go up and down so many times if the built-in clips on your lights break.
Universal light clips are one of the best options for hanging your lights. They are designed to attach to various things, from gutters to siding to fascia to window frames. They also fit almost every style of Christmas lights out there.
Whatever you do, don’t use nails, screws, or staples to attach lights to your home. Besides the risk of accidentally driving a metal item through an electrical cord, they also make holes in your home’s cladding, which means moisture gets in and can cause rot and mold.
For the sake of convenience and efficiency, get a timer for your lights. You won’t have to think about going to plug in or turn on the lights every day or remember to turn them off when you go to bed. It’s all automatic, and you won’t have to think about Christmas lights again until it’s time to take them down!
Managing Snow and Ice on Driveways and Sidewalks
Managing snow and ice on your driveway and sidewalk is vital in winter for the safety of passersby and your family. Preventative maintenance is the best bet, but sometimes we’re busy and the ice build-up gets the better of us, or freezing rain turns all of Iowa into a giant skating rink in a matter of hours.
Salt is one of the most common ice control options. It’s generally easy to acquire and simple to use. But there a couple of cons to using salt:
- Over time, salt can cause premature aging and breakdown of concrete.
- It isn’t great for your lawn or garden beds. Plants don’t like salty soil.
- It’s really hard on dogs’ feet and can cause their paw pads to dry out and even have painful cracking that could cause long-term sensitivity.
In some cases, like with freezing rain, salt may be the fastest and safest option. If you use salt and have pets, just be careful. Keep your pets off of salted areas, get them some boots to wear outside (yes, they probably won’t love it, but they get used to them, eventually), and clean up salted areas once the ice has melted.
Less is more when applying salt. The general rule of thumb is 3.5-4 pounds of salt per 1000 square feet of driveway and sidewalk. You probably don’t want to weigh out your salt portions every day, so just remember that an average 12 oz coffee mug full is about 1 pound of salt.
Finally, salt is just a melting agent, it doesn’t clean up the mess. Once you’ve applied salt, get out and start clearing with a shovel or ice chopper. When you’re done clearing the ice, any leftover salt should be swept up and thrown away.
If you want to avoid salt entirely, there are commercial ice melts that are pet-safe, or you can aim for creating traction on the ice. To add traction, try sawdust, coffee grinds, or kitty litter.
Preventative maintenance is always the best bet, so get out and shovel regularly and invest in an ice chopper if you can. Remember that Des Moines requires all snow and ice be cleared from sidewalks within 48 hours of the end of a storm, and last year the fines went up.
Timeless Decorating With Evergreens
Evergreen boughs are a simple and tasteful way to dress up your property for the holidays. They’re a classic winter feature, so they’ll give tasteful beauty through Christmas and into the new year. There are so many ways you can work with evergreens, from potted live evergreens to custom-designed porch pots.
You can check out and sign up for any of our evergreen workshops on the classes page. We are doing workshops in person now, with a limit of 10 people per class, and masks are required. Each attendee will have their own table and freshly sanitized tools to work with.
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We’re also still doing the workshops virtually, so you can purchase your kit, take it home, and create a beautiful evergreen piece while watching our livestream events for instructions. Virtual classes are on the same day and time as the in-person workshop.