Fall garden chores help prepare your yard for winter

Here’s a list of 13 tasks to get your yard ready for winter and help save you some extra work in the spring:

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There’s still time (but not a lot) to take care of a few last chores to get your yard and garden ready for winter and save yourself some time next spring.

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1. Rake leaves/fallen fruit: Do not give mold, mildew and other diseases a chance to take hold in your lawn. Rake up leaves, fallen crabapples and anything else that will trap moisture or rot. These will make an excellent addition to your compost bin.

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2. Leave the leaves where they’ve fallen in your beds: Leaves will act as mulch (see #4) as well as provide overwintering habitat for ladybird beetles (aphid predators).

3. Mow the lawn: Mow your lawn one last time, but leave it longer than you would normally to help it survive the winter in better condition. Use your mower to suck up leaves if you don’t want to use a rake.

4. Mulch tree, shrub and perennial beds: Mulch performs a number of functions including protecting the root zone from our ultra-low prairie winter temperatures. Those leaves you picked up with your lawn mower make an excellent mulch.

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5. Cut back perennials: If you do this now, there’s less chance to damage early succulent spring growth. In my garden, it’s the ornamental grasses that seem to start growing before the snow is completely gone. But it’s a balancing act. For some, the dead above-ground plant growth from the previous season acts as a protective layer against low temperature as well as trapping an insulating snow layer.

6. Water trees and shrubs: This is especially important for your evergreens like spruce and cedars. Even though they don’t grow in winter, they still respire and require water throughout the fall, winter and spring. Deciduous trees and shrubs also benefit from a deep drink, providing a spring reservoir to draw from when they start to grow again.

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7. Rototill: Get your vegetable garden and annual planting beds ready now. This is an excellent time to add compost, manure, ground-up leaves, etc., to enrich the soil. Tilling the garden also brings overwintering insects to the surface to be either gobbled up by birds or to simply dry out and die.

8. Plant bulbs: Plant spring-blooming bulbs as soon as they are available in the stores in the fall. Ideally, they should have a few weeks to root in. Consider tulips, lilies, squill, grape hyacinth, alliums and more. Invest now to reap dividends with early spring and summer colour.

9. Turn off outside water, blow out sprinklers, and drain hoses: Water expands as it freezes. While this characteristic means that ice floats and gives us ponds to skate on in winter, it also means that water-filled pipes and hoses burst when that water freezes.

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10. Winterize lawn equipment: To winterize gas-powered equipment, you can either drain the gas (if it’s regular gas, add it to your car’s fuel tank or snow blower), or fill the tank and add fuel stabilizer according to label instructions. In fact, always use fuel stabilizer when you fill the jerry can to prevent the fuel from going stale even during the summer. This is also a good time to give any gas-powered equipment an oil change, replace air filters, get blades sharpened, refill the string in your lawn edger, etc.

11. Clean and sharpen tools: Clean your hand tools and sharpen shovels, hoes, pruners, etc., before putting them away for the year. Give them a light wipe with mineral oil to prevent rust.

12. Clean gutters: Gutters are a great water distribution system. But they also are excellent leaf collectors, which reduces their ability to handle water. Once most of the leaves have fallen and before the bitter cold hits, get out and remove the trapped leaves. You’ll thank yourself the next time it rains.

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13. Get out your snow shovel: Don’t kid yourself, climate change will never give us a tropical prairie winter. You’ll have to get on a plane and go elsewhere in February to have one of those.

(Erl Svendsen gardens in Saskatoon and enjoys being called a climate zone denier for trying new and interesting perennials.)

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society, which can be contacted by email at saskperennial@hotmail.com. Check our website (www.saskperennial.ca) or Facebook page (www.facebook.com/saskperennial) for a list of upcoming gardening events.

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