Prepare Your Garden Tools                              garden tools                     
Preparing your garden tools for the winter helps to promote their longevity and makes using them next season much easier. Mark these must-do to-dos off your winterizing checklist. Wash off dirt that has dried and hardened onto garden tools, such as shovels and hoes. Apply linseed oil to wooden handles to prevent desiccation and cracking. Sharpen blades of tools, such as pruners, hedge trimmers and shovels.
Prepping Power Equipment
Empty gasoline out of power equipment. To empty your lawn mower’s gas tank, use it to mulch fall leaves on the lawn. Give four-cycle engines, such as lawn mowers and tillers, an oil change. Inspect spark plugs and replace worn-out ones. Check air filters and replace old, dirty ones. Scrape or hose off grass and other grime that has collected on power equipment, especially lawn mowers. Remove blades and sharpen before putting them back on.
Drain Your Hoses
Drain garden hoses and take them inside for the winter. Otherwise, water left sitting inside hoses can freeze and expand, causing the hose lining to rupture and create leaks. Repair leaky hoses and replace old and damaged washers and fittings. Thoroughly rinse sprayers and fertilizer/grass seed spreaders. Allow to dry before storing. Also turn off the indoor tap that connects to outside water source to prevent frozen pipes.
Resist Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses
If you grow ornamental grasses, resist the temptation to cut the foliage back until late winter or early spring because all that top growth helps insulate the root ball. That’s especially true if the grass is only marginally hardy in your area.
Avoid Pruningpruning
Avoid heavy pruning of trees and shrubs going into the winter months, but do prune away broken branches. Touch up mulch at the base of plants and shrubs once temperatures are consistently cold. Consider root watering evergreens and providing exterior protection with
Bring Tender Plants Indoors
Depending on where you live, some plants may behave as either annuals or perennials that simply can’t handle even a light frost. Many people don’t bother trying to extend the life of plants generally not meant to last more than a year and let them die back after a freeze hits. However, if you grow tender annuals and perennials in pots and want to save them, move the pots into the house when frost threatens and take them back out when the weather warms a bit, at least for a week or two. This process allows the plant acclimate better to a drastic change in growing conditions.
Winterize Water Features
Water features are of particular concern during the winter. Make sure you drain them and store the pot and pump in the garage or garden shed. Consult a pond installation expert on how to properly winterize your water feature. Turn off water to irrigation systems and set automatic timers to the “off” mode. You may not want to turn the controller box off completely so you don’t lose the watering schedule and have to reprogram it next season. It may be necessary to drain or blow the water out of the pipes. Consult your local irrigation specialist on recommendations. If any pipes, valves or the backflow preventer are above ground and exposed to the elements, wrap them with protective insulation, like insulator tape, to keep them from freezing. But don’t insulate or block air vents or the pump motor.
Clean Out and Store Pots in a Protected Area
Keep in mind that freezes doglowing-flower-pots-lgn’t just affect plants. They can wreak havoc on other features in your garden as well. Even the best pots can crack if the soil is left in them over the winter, so remember to remove the soil. If you have time and are so inclined, scrub the pots clean with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
Store Watering Cans in a Protected Area
Watering cans, especially galvanized cans, may expand and crack if water left in them freezes. Empty watering cans and place them where they can’t collect rainwater.
Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs
Dig and store tender summer- and fall-flowering bulbs, such as dahlias. Plant spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils, crocus, hyacinth and tulips. Plant bulbs with their roots down. If the bulb has a sprout at the top, it can still be planted. Bone meal is a good additive for strengthening spring bulb growth.
In the perennial border, touch up mulch around plants for added winter protection. A layer of mulch about two to four inches deep is ideal. Unless you prefer otherwise, it is fine to leave foliage that has died back as it will help provide additional protection at the crown of plants. Leave ornamental grasses intact without cutting them back to discourage new growth during warm spells and encourage birds to visit.
Add Spent Plants to Compost
Remove spent plants from the vegetable garden and add them to the compost pile. Discard diseased plants in the trash. Turn over the soil with a garden fork (or till) to expose underground pests to cold temperatures. Caution: don’t work soil when it’s wet! Planting a cover crop can help reduce soil erosion, capture nutrients, reduce weeds and enrich the soil for spring. Winterize the compost bin by covering it with a tarp; this will help to keep the composting process going through the cold season. Occasionally soak the pile with water to keep it moist. Add an insulation of leaves or straw on the top and the sides of the pile.
Winterizing Roses
In colder climates, ignore the planting advice that probably came with the Rose and dig a deep hole so that the bud union can be at least 3 – 4 cm below the soil surface. The, usually, long piece of rootstock does not have to be vertical. Having planted the Rose in the cold weather fashion, Rose winterizing becomes a much easier job. A couple of shovelfuls of soil dumped onto the base of the plant will help more of the bottom of the canes survive. Keeping that soil tight to the canes, that it is supposed to protect, is the most important task in Rose winterizing.
Remove Fallen Leaves
Fall is an ideal time for fertilizing your lawn. Remove fallen leaves by raking and composting them or mulch them with a mulching lawn mower. However, use the fallen leaves to mulch over perennial beds to catch the snow as ground cover over the winter months.
For the Birds
Create a winter haven for your feathered friends. Provide them with the essentials: food, shelter and water. Keep bird feeders refilled throughout the winter season. Drain and clean ceramic birdbaths before bringing them indoors. Provide shelter from the cold by way of birdhouses. Or, place nest-making materials, such as yarn, hair and dried grass, around the yard for birds to collect.
Feral Cats
Their thickened winter coats help feral and stray cats weather winter’s chill, but they still need warm, dry, well-insulated and appropriate-sized shelters. Building a shelter can mean the difference between life and death for these cats. A shelter does not have to be expensive. It can be as simple as a small bin from the hardware store (not too big otherwise it won’t capture the cat’s body heat). Bedding such as straw or a loosely filled pillow case with packing peanuts or shredded newspaper) will do. Be sure to periodically check the shelter and replenish any moist or wet bedding. For a really harsh winter you could “wallpaper” the shelter’s inner walls and floor with Mylar. It reflects back body heat, and it’s okay for cats to lie on it. Place food and water near the shelter so the cats won’t have to travel far. Craig Street Cats is a wonderful local resource to help. 204-421-1919 or