Some essential things to do as winter arrives

As usual, the first snowfall of the season has people scrambling to put on winter tires and put the finishing touches on the yard.

As usual, the first snowfall of the season has people scrambling to put on winter tires and put the finishing touches on the yard.

Luckily, a few warm days often follow the first snow, giving people time to complete the last-minute chores.

This late in the season, garden chores fall into three categories: things that have to be done, things that are better completed, and things that can be done but it really doesn’t matter.

Most people rarely get to the third category.

Make sure all waterlines are blown out and drained.

If water is left over the winter, there is a good chance that the lines will split when the water freezes. Remove all hoses from faucets for the same reason. Drain and hang the hoses until next spring.

Remove all fish from the pond unless it is set up with a pump or open area to allow fish to overwinter. Remove tender water plants.

Hardy waterlilies will overwinter in a pond as long as the pond doesn’t freeze to the bottom.

In smaller ponds remove the lilies and place them in a black plastic bag which can be stored in a cool area. Leave all marginal plants intact.

Cutting them back will allow moisture to enter their stems, causing the root to rot.

Dig all root crops that are still in the ground.

Let them dry in a warm area before storing them for winter. Check them over carefully, removing any produce that is rotting or has been frozen.

Dig all tender corms and tubers that need to be stored for the winter.

They will have to dry and be checked for rot before being placed in storage.

Provide winter protection for all tender plants.

This can be as simple as covering plants with leaves. Larger, tender plants can benefit from placing a frame around the plant and filling it with an insulating material.

Once again, leaves work well but if they are not available try peatmoss. An alternative is to purchase a ready-made cover that is made to give plants winter protection.

Cedars and junipers that are on the south or west side of a building can burn if they lose too much moisture in the winter to transpiration.

Covering them in burlap or a synthetic wrap will help alleviate this problem. Take care when wrapping plants to make sure they are not unsightly. They will be wrapped and visible for four or five months.

Water in new plantings, cedars and junipers.

The easiest method is to leave a hose drizzling water over the roots for a number of hours. Once the ground is saturated, move the hose to another spot or plant.

Clear the yard of all toys, hoses, pots and tools.

Equipment lasts longer if it isn’t exposed to the elements. Once things are covered with snow, they can become a tripping hazard.

Remove the dead tops of plants from the vegetable garden, as well as all annuals.

If possible, place them in a compost pile. An alternative is to dig a trench in the garden and bury the plant material. It will start decaying and enrich the soil.

Placing a thin layer of compost or manure on perennial beds will enrich the soil, enabling the plants to easily find nutrients next growing season. Choose the compost or manure with care as weed seeds can be viable for many years.

Gardening is over for another year. It is time to take care of the final odds and ends.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at or