The September To-Do List

The temperatures are starting to get cooler, taking us from the sweaty days of summer to the season of light, comfy jackets. Luckily, there's still some time to enjoy yourself and get things done outside before it gets too cold.

1. Complete Your Fall Home Improvement List
This year's summer was exceptionally hot, so you probably spent more time cooling off indoors than working on your home outside. Fortunately, September is the perfect month to catch up. Spend a Saturday morning cleaning out your gutters, especially if you live in a snowy area. Leaves, twigs, nests and other debris pull your gutters away from your house over time. In addition, the debris prevents water and snow from draining properly, possibly ruining your foundation. Overflowing water can get inside the walls of your home, causing wood rot.

If you see any damage to the roof while you're cleaning, you might need to call a professional inspector. An extensive amount of damage to your roof could allow heat to escape, ultimately driving up your heating bill.

Meanwhile, when it comes to your lawn, removing fallen leaves makes way for healthy grass to grow in the spring and minimizes the risk of snow mold.

2. Prep Your Garden for Fall and Winter
Most people think gardening is a spring activity, but there's something to do every month of the year. There are plenty of flowers still blooming in the fall, including helenium, monkshood, sedum and Japanese anemone, to name a few. September is also a good time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, but don't forget your vegetable and herb gardens! Harvest your basil, cilantro, Brussels sprouts and other midsummer veggies this month and dry, pickle or freeze them for later. Also, take out any old, dead crops and weeds - bugs like to use these decaying plants to lay eggs that will hatch in the spring. Use mulch to keep the soil's temperature even throughout winter. This helps protect your perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs as they spread their roots.

3. Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks
Although the season for fleas and ticks starts in late spring, it's at its worst during September and October. Fleas love high humidity and temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees. Grab the flea and tick solution of your choice, whether that's a topical treatment, shampoo or collar. If you notice the fleas are returning frequently, you might have an infestation and need an exterminator.

4. Grab a Last-Minute Vacation Deal
Vacation packages drop in price after Labor Day, generally between 10 and 20 percent. Attractions and resorts, eager to grab a few last-minute tourists, offer deals to make up for dwindling numbers as the temperatures drop and people head back to school. This means you get a nice vacation and don't have to deal with other families crowding amusement parks and snagging all the good hotel suites.

5. Service Your Heating Systems
You don't want to wait until the temperature drops to find out there's something wrong with your heating. Have a professional inspect your HVAC system to check for any heat leaks, clean and test your furnace and check for any hazards that might start a fire. If your Septembers tend to be hot and humid rather than cool and breezy, you should still have a professional make sure your system is properly dehumidifying your home. Excess moisture makes the house feel hotter than it actually is.

If you have a fireplace, clean out all the soot and have someone come inspect your chimney, checking for any debris or other concerns. This way, your fireplace is ready as soon as you want to use it, whether that's to entertain family and friends or to huddle around during a quiet, snowy evening