Fall is a beautiful time of year. But for seniors and their caregivers, much work accompanies the crisp afternoons. Fall is the time to make preparations to ready your yard and landscaping for the cold to come. With a bit of preparation—and inspiration from Robert Frost—you and your plants will weather the winter happy and healthy.

Leaves are Beautiful—and Dangerous for SeniorsRobert Frost Historic Site

O hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild
Should waste them all
Frost is right; the October leaves on a tree are beautiful and impermanent. A stiff wind may waste the beauty. But when those beautiful leaves fall to the ground, they also become dangerous and slippery. Keep your walkways clear to reduce your risk of falling. If you compost, cover the surface with a generous layer of the leaves you pick up. They will keep the compost the appropriate temperature and will soon become dirt themselves.

Be careful when raking your leaves—raking sends people to emergency rooms each year. Here are quick tips to avoid injury:

  • Warm up with some light exercise and stretching before going outside.
  • Wear gloves to prevent blisters.
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Prevent stress injuries by regularly changing how you hold the rake and how you stand.
  • Avoid twisting motions like throwing leaves over your shoulder—they put undue stress on your back.
  • Don't overfill leaf bags, and be aware that if the leaves are wet, they will be even heavier.
  • It's better to take another trip rather than hurt your back.
Use the Crisp Fall Mornings to Ready Your Home

The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go
O hushed October morning mild
Begin the hours of this day slow
In these lines, Frost wants to stretch the beautiful fall days and let autumn's glory unfurl ever so slowly. Begin the hours of your day gently and start your home maintenance on the inside. Here are some easy home maintenance tips:
  • Place markers along paths that will stick above the snow. They will be your guide when you are shoveling, protecting your garden beds.
  • Make sure your outdoor lighting is providing bright light—replace burnt-out bulbs.
  • Clean your gutters when the leaves have all fallen and check your drainpipes for leaks.
  • Before the first frost, bring in your garden hose and shut off water to outside taps to prevent pipe bursts.
  • Check the sealant around windows and doors, and secure all vents and openings, to keep the wet and cold out.
  • Be careful when using ladders while doing your maintenance. Don't climb in wet shoes and make sure all safety locks and braces are in place. All four legs should be on a firm, level surface.
Protect Your Plants from the Winter to Come

Make the day seem to us less brief
Hearts not averse to being beguiled
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
In lines 9-13, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet captures the splendor of the season. Fall is magical. It transfixes us as leaves fall, one by one. But don't gaze at the beauty too long or your plants won't make it to spring. Here's your checklist for helping your plants survive the winter:
  • Bring potted plants indoors so their roots don't freeze.
  • Protect sensitive outdoor plants by wrapping them in plastic or burlap. Small plants can hide under overturned pots or buckets.
  • Mulch is great for keeping roots from freezing and keeping in moisture during the dry winter. Get hardwood shredded mulch from your local garden supply store and spread it 2-3 inches deep around the base of each plant.
Clearing the Fall Foliage for Fantastic Color

One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst
Fall is the time to pluck spent blooms and pull out dead annuals. Do the clearing work now so you savor the radiant color.

Remove dead branches and trim branches that hang over your house. Branches become heavy with snow, and you don't want them to break and fall. Make sure to look up before cutting branches and be careful to stay away from power lines.

Remember, most plants do not need pruning, because pruning encourages growth. The exception is roses: cut roses to a third of their height after the first frost. Don't worry, they will grow back more beautiful than ever, adding their radiant colors to the spring to come.

Don't Do It All Yourself

Slow, slow!

With "Slow, slow!" on line 17, Frost cautions the reader. Savor both his words—and the season. Don't feel the need to tackle all the seasonal preparation today or by yourself.

Hire a professional to examine your chimney and furnace, and get the neighborhood teenager to clean your gutters. Now is also the best time to hire someone to keep your sidewalks shoveled and de-iced. Prepaying now might mean you get clean sidewalks first.

Conclusion

For the grapes' sake, if they were all
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall
Frost was born in San Francisco, a land of two seasons, but he was transfixed by the fall and has become associated with the splendor of New England.

Enjoy October—both the poem and the season—and be prepared for the winter to come.

October by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild
Should waste them all
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go
hushed October morning mild
Begin the hours of this day slow
Make the day seem to us less brief
Hearts not averse to being beguiled
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall
Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne is an NAHB Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Unlike Robert Frost (who dropped out), Shayne graduated from Harvard College. When it comes to writing however, Frost comes out on top.