The weather has caught us all by surprise and there can be some leftover gardening projects still unfinished. If that bag or box of spring flowering bulbs is still sitting in the garage, the ground is not frozen and planting those bulbs will be easy. Follow the directions for proper planting depth and put some bone meal in the bottom of the hole as part of the planting process. We are supposed to get some break in the weather, so pick your day carefully by watching the weather closely.
One project that absolutely needs to be done as soon as possible is making sure your garden hose is no longer connected to your homes water spigot. That spigot will only be freeze proof as long as no water remains in the fixture. Leaving a garden hose attached may allow water to remain and freeze and burst pipes. If you can, drain the water from your hoses before putting them away for the winter.
Some of our trees dropped their leaves late and that may not be a bad thing. You can use those leaves to provide winter cover for your hardy and tender perennials. Leaves work well for that strawberry bed too. If the fall winds have done the job for you by collecting naturally in the foliage, what a great thing, less work for you. If you are going to use the leaves to mulch the crowns, the leaves should be loose and not packed tightly.
While you want to be sure the hose is disconnected from the home, if we do get that break in weather, watering your needle evergreens one more time will get them through the winter with less needle desiccation and lose. . It is important for all our plants, yet really important for the evergreens so we do not have browned needles next spring.
Now that our deciduous trees are completely dormant, it is the right time to wrap the trunks of our young and thinned barked trees to protect them frost and freeze cracks for the rest of winter through early spring. The other best reason to wrap those trunks is once the snow gets here, they become the next meal once snow covers the lawns and weeds. Rabbits, field mice and voles eat all winter long.
Another end of the season project is cleaning and protecting your gardening tools. Leaving dirt on tools will lead to a rusty spot underneath next spring. A rusty tool is harder to work with than one that is free of rust. You can use a wire brush or coarse rag to remove the remaining soil and then use a light oil to cover and protect the garden tools. Clean your pruners and saws too to remove sap residue.
Lastly, if you have not dug out the snow blower yet, it is time. Drain the old fuel and add fresh before you ever try and start the blower, especially if it is an oil/gas mixture. Consider a new spark plug if it has been a few years. Better to make sure it runs before you really need it. If you putting the mower away either run the mower dry or add fuel stabilizer to the fuel and run the mower to ensure treated gas has made its way all the way through the warmed engine.
About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.