This time of year, getting the gardening “to do” list finished is challenging anyway, and now with our variable weather pattern, it’s nearly impossible. If there is a way to make gardeners feel better, there is a lot of discussion going on that says leaving the garden debris in place has some benefits for overwintering beneficial insects. Insects that needed that debris to “cocoon” on earlier are still out there since the garden parts never made it to the compost bin or pile.
The last of the leaves that came down or blew in from the neighborhood got caught up in the plant debris and is yet another location for protection if overwintering as an adult insect until next spring. The way that last cold wave came through caught a lot of leaves still in tree canopies, not yet ready to come down, so there will be more leaves added as winter proceeds.
Surely, by now, snow removal tools have all been located and are in a place you can find them when you really need them. A couple of other reminders – one important and the other one is a “you’ll regret it later if you don’t do it now” kind of thing. The important one is frost-free water spigots are only frost-free if the garden hose is disconnected! Frost-free operates by allowing the water to drain completely out of the fixture and the hose can prevent this. The garden hose will expand as the water inside freezes and while you might shorten its life, it is nothing compared to what happens when the spigot freezes with water. The other is taking the time to go over those gardening tools for the last time and be sure they are free of soil and as dry and clean as possible. A coating of a light oil does not hurt either.
Last week’s topic was feeding birds and firewood. While there is snow on the ground and temperatures are below freezing, the ground is not frozen. Now would be a good time to drive the bird feeder stake into the ground even if you do not have the feeder cleaned up or birdseed bought. Back to the firewood – got all that done outside? Time for a nice warm fire in the fireplace, take a nap and dream of Spring 2020.
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.