As the month of October winds down, there are a few last-minute gardening chores that need to be done to ensure that the garden is totally put to bed and ready for the long winter ahead. If you grow tender roses such as the hybrid teas, give them extra protection for the winter. Although they are more work than the hardy varieties, tea roses have such exquisite blooms and enchanting perfume that many gardeners grow at least one or two of these beauties. To ensure that tender roses or any other tender plants come through the winter without damage, hill them up with soil. This is best done after the foliage has dropped and after cool weather has arrived.
Use dry soil, which has better insulating qualities than wet soil, or peat moss or dry leaves, held in place with chicken wire. Trim the rose stems back severely they will be dead by spring anyway so that the roses are easier to cover. Some gardeners use a Styrofoam cone or other protection over the hilled-up roses to further protect them and to keep the soil dry. The main goal is to maintain a constant soil temperature around the rose roots and to protect the roots from the very lowest temperatures by adding the soil buffer.
The next job might be to prepare the pond or water garden. Drain the pump and take it in for the winter. Take pots of tender water plants such as water lilies indoors. Most are easy to keep over just place pot and all into a plastic bag and store the whole thing in a cool basement until spring. Whether a pond should be drained depends on what material was used to make it. Concrete may crack if subjected to freeze-thaw cycles when full of water.
Put garden equipment (including hoses) indoors for the winter. If left hanging full of water outdoors they may split and will definitely deteriorate. Many decorative garden objects, as well as benches and willow furniture, are best not left outside. If kept protected from the elements for the winter, they will last a lot longer.
Make a last-minute tour of the yard with rake in hand and collect any leaves that are still about. These can be added to the compost bin. Make plans so that composting does not have to stop for the winter. I bring a couple of garbage cans with lids onto a nearby patio close to the back door in which to store compost material from the kitchen during the winter. In the spring this material can easily be dumped into the permanent compost bin as soon as the snow melts sufficiently to access the bin. Also, if you haven t already done so, store a few bags of leaves to use as the brown material next summer in your compost bin. Don t leave these accessible to deer during the winter.
Deer also can damage shrubs, especially cedars. Before I fenced my yard, I used 2×2 posts and stucco wire to fence anything I thought the deer might damage. This fencing is not too obtrusive and serves the purpose of keeping the deer away from the cedars. Before you fence them, give your cedars and any other evergreens you have a good drink. Evergreens that enter the winter well watered will suffer less winter damage than those that go into winter dehydrated.
Tending to last-minute tasks in the garden before the snow flies means that your garden will be ready for whatever winter throws at it, and the garden will be in good shape come spring.
Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba