Just the other day, while sitting in the truck for a long ride, I was making a mental note of chores I needed to do when I got back to the farm. Then, I remembered that my memory is about as long as my nose, and realized I really did need to remember to do these things when I got home. I thought I would share my list with you because I’m suspecting that there are those of you who need to do most of these things too. Trust me, you’ll thank me in the spring!
And so my list, in no particular order of importance:
- Apply that left-over fertilizer that you have in bags in various places around your home and farm. Now, use moderation here, but really, use up the stuff that is cluttering your garage, work room or shed. I won’t remember what I have and where it is when I need to apply it in the spring – I know myself well enough to know that! There is almost nothing I hate worse than finding a bag of [expensive] fertilizer or soil enhancement that has turned all clumpy and stinky from moisture. Apply it to your garden, shrubs, or lawn now and don’t trip over the bag all winter. An added bonus is when spring time rolls around, and you haven’t gotten to the store to buy the correct amendment for the soil, you can still pat yourself on the back and say that you [kind of] already did that chore last fall!
- Take a picture of your flower beds. Again, with that memory limitation that I have, I have found that taking pictures of things with my cell phone camera is a god-send. In the spring, when all of my plants just start peeking up through the ground, I have a hard time visualizing which ones need to be split and which ones may need to be moved altogether. A little photo rememory makes the job much easier. Most perennials make the transition much easier in the spring. One time I heard a speaker say that the best time to split a perennials is . . . whenever you have time to do it. While I subscribe to that theory, I do pretend to do it correctly most of the time.
- Trim back your perennials this fall and make spring garden prep a whole lot easier. I know I’ll get some kick-back here from those of you who enjoy the “winter-interest” that tall perennials with interesting seed heads give to an otherwise uninteresting landscape. I appreciate the sentiment. But, I also have issues with the mice and voles that feed on those seeds throughout the winter and mess up my lawn. I have lots of tall Autumn Sedum lining my sidewalks. They get in the way of shoveling and eventually get covered in snowbanks anyway. It takes a long time for the snow to melt, and then when it does, a new crop of Sedum is already bursting forth from the ground. A beautiful site because it means spring in on the way. It also means that I have to spend hours individually cutting each old stalk so I don’t accidently cut off the new growth. It is a major waste of time. When I do it in the fall – my spring garden can come in when it wants to and it’s a good plan. I pretty much cut back everything I can in the fall for the same reason. The only things I leave until spring are my flowering shrubs that won’t flower if you cut off the buds this time of year.
- Cut your grass/mow your lawn one last time. I did this about a month ago – all pleased with myself because I got something done early. I cut it again last week (so much for trying to out-smart Mother nature). A couple of weeks of above-average temperatures and then some good seasonal rains and I was right back where I started. This time of year, I cut it shorter than I do during the summer. Smart gardening practices say to leave grass about 3 1/2 inches long during the summer, which I do. In the fall however, I trim it back to about 2 inches for several reasons: the winds have an easier time of blowing fallen leaves across my yard and into my neighbors yard; I use the grass and leaf clippings for mulch over my more tender perennials; I try to foil the attempts of the above mentioned mice and voles of making a nice habitat for their winter under the snow. I’m vindictive here – those rodents make a mess of my lawn under the snow with their little pathways and ruined grass roots!
- De-clutter the garage, especially along the sides where you get in and out of your car. You may think this is an unnecessary chore but I think it is one of the most important ones. And, the best part of it is that you can do it on a cold, rainy and windy day when you don’t want to be outside anyway. The reason I have to do this at this time of year – and I try to maintain it throughout the summer but with less success – is so when the ice and snow and salt and sand and all of the other nasty stuff that gets tracked into that space, melts off your car, it does not ruin the stuff left along the side. And besides, while you are dressed like the Abominable Snowman and have added girth to your girth, do you really want to be navigating past stuff frozen to the floor of your garage? I don’t!
- Put your hoses away. You know and I know that good hoses are not cheap. They are easy to forget this time of year because you haven’t used them in weeks and they are probably tucked away into an inconspicuous corner already. Those of us in a northern climate know that once we reach the time of year when freeze warnings turn into winter, that everything gets more difficult to maintain. Take a few minutes and remove the spray nozzle and drain the hoses. This really can be as simple as lifting them as high as you can and letting the water drain out the end. Coil them up and put them all in one location back in that inconspicuous corner. You really will thank me for that tip in the spring.
- Those leaves again – I mentioned earlier that leaves make good mulch to put over perennials or to put in a garden as a good soil amendment for clay and/or sand. If you chose do no nothing with the big piles of leaves that blow and stay in protected areas of your yard – in the spring, that same pile of wet compacted leaves will act as a weed barrier killing weeds and grass alike. What could have been a beneficial additive is now a destructive force. Beside a pile of wet, compacted leaves in the spring, you will most likely also find slugs and earth worms and other creepy crawly things in that pile. Yuck!
- Clean the eavestroughing. My mister added this one. I think it was because we’ve been having a little issue with rain water coming over the edge of our eavestroughing in these last heavy rains. Once he got up there to look, he found them filled with the pebbles of the asphalt shingles as well as some pine quills. He cleaned them out like the good guy that he is, but remarked that he was glad he found the issue now instead of waiting until the spring when the added weight of ice would have made them prone to fail.
- Put away the lawn ornaments and patio furniture. This can be a fun activity and it certainly looks like you’ve accomplished something when its done. These items can be projectiles during a major winter storm. They can be hidden obstacles when you are trying to remove snow on your path or sidewalk or even when snowmobiling through the yard. Besides, doesn’t that little stature of a child in the garden just make you C-O-L-D when you see the bare arms and legs?
- Check your snow-removal equipment. I probably saved the worse for last. There is just something about putting that snow blower on the tractor that makes the up-coming season a reality. Mister can be a little obsessive about certain chores – most of which I appreciate when I need them. This is his seasonal rite of passage. It’s off with the loader and on with the snow blower. He fills up the gas tank, checks the oil and we wait. I usually swear at least one time that the little loader would have been helpful in preforming some of the above mentioned chores but oh well, I can adapt. I know that I will find a snow brush in each vehicle and a shovel by each door. I can still hope that Mother Nature will be kind this year but just in case she isn’t, we are ready for winter – and for spring. I can pour another cup of coffee and grab the latest seed catalog -remember when they used to come in the mail right after Christmas and now they come this time of year- and begin planning my new and best ever garden for next year.
Thanks for visiting today. Please feel free to share with your friends.