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.
- Pull annuals and add them to the compost pile. For annuals that self-seed, allow seed-laden stems to remain in place through winter unless you plan to sprinkle them elsewhere in the garden.
- Store breakable items, like terra-cotta pots, rain gauges, and other garden art before hard freezes settle in. Terra-cotta overwinters fine in an unheated shed or garage. Make sure pots and saucers are dry before storage.
- Fall can be a great time to cut back your perennials if you've got the time and energy to get it done. Make sure to leave 2-3 inches of the plant's stem to help protect fresh shoots from animal damage as they first emerge in the spring. It's also a helpful reminder of where plants are in the yard before they start to sprout.
- Consider leaving some perennials like coneflower, black-eyed Susan and tall sedums standing. They add interest to the winter garden both by their structure and by attracting birds to their seed heads.
- Ornamental grasses should be left standing to protect their crown from a harsh winter.
- Keep water gardens covered with a net until gusty fall winds have settled down and leaves aren't blowing around.
- Pull stakes and plant supports. Store where they'll freeze to help destroy overwintering pests and diseases.
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.