Biting winds and frosty mornings give warning to wrap up planting and tackle outdoor chores before winter arrives.
Invest time in tidying the garden before the snow flies. Time spent outdoors now pays big dividends in spring. You'll not only shorten your to-do list, you'll also ward off some pest and disease problems.
Test Garden Tip: Use a leaf vacuum or blower to remove leaves along foundations. Removing leaves helps eliminate hiding places for pests and rodents that can gain entry to your home. Allow some leaves to remain beneath shrubs to provide vital winter cover for beneficial insects.
Test Garden Tip: Use caution storing birdseed in a basement or attached garage. Many seeds are infested with pantry moths, which will quickly set up housekeeping in your family's food store.
Get the last of the spring- and summer-flowering bulbs into the ground. Pot up a few bulbs for forcing.
While the ideal planting window has passed, if you haven't planted garlic yet, you can still tuck it into soil. Be sure to mulch planting beds with a thick layer of chopped leaves, compost, or straw to give cloves extra rooting time before soil freezes.
Water any plants you added to the landscape during the previous growing season. Continue to irrigate until the ground freezes if rain is scarce. More plants die during their first winter due to lack of moisture.
Add mulch around plantings after the ground freezes. Mulch helps limit soil temperature swings, which can prevent frost heave -- where freeze-thaw cycles push plants out of soil. Candidates for frost heave include Heucheras, shallowly planted bulbs, and perennials added to the landscape late in the season. If roots don't sink deeply into soil before it freezes, plants can heave.
Dig planting holes now for live Christmas trees. Stuff the hole with leaves and cover with a tarp. Store soil you removed from the planting hole in a spot where it won't freeze.
Test Garden Tip: Drain and store hoses. Stash quick connects, watering wands, and other irrigation gear in a frost-free location. If you deal with hard water and spy mineral deposits on irrigation connections, soak in vinegar and wipe with a rag to clean.
Test Garden Tip: Get water heaters into ponds before the water freezes. If your vinyl-lined pond hosts frogs, fill a plastic dish pan with clay soil and sink it in the pond. Frogs will burrow in and hibernate.
Test Garden Tip: Give the lawn one last cutting before snow flies. Cut grass shorter -- short grass is less susceptible to snow mold.