Is your garden ready for winter? Last-minute checklist for WNY

autumn trees at sunset South Park in Buffalo
Trees and clouds at sunset in South Park, as seen from the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I saw a few snowflakes fluttering in the air yesterday evening, but you may live in an area of Western New York that got some snow accumulation.

And all of us gardeners have experienced cold temperatures. A lot of us were caught off guard by overnight lows in the teens and brisk daytime temperatures. Just last week we could putter in the garden without a jacket!

While we may see some milder temperatures this week, winter is on its way.

Here is a last-minute checklist to make sure your garden is prepared for winter:

Bring in your hose. When water in your hose freezes and expands, your hose can crack. Drain your hose and take it into the garage or basement.

Disconnect your rain barrels. Freezing water can crack your rain barrels, too.

Bring in your ceramic pots and delicate ornaments. Even large plastic pots can split if the plastic isn’t elastic enough.

The same can happen to plastic wall-hanging fountains, so bring those in.  We had one that cracked, so I planted it up with succulents and I leave it outside all year long now. The crack provides drainage. We have a newer hanging fountain that actually holds water, and that one gets drained and stored for the winter.

Bring in your lawn furniture. I’ve been putting off this task because we’ve had such wonderfully mild autumn weather. As much as I hate to admit it, we probably won’t be eating dinner or even lunch at the picnic table anymore this year.

Rake the leaves off of your lawn. A few leaves are fine for your lawn, but large piles of leaves could kill the grass. Rake them up before they’re covered in snow (or as soon as you can after the snow melts.) Those leaves have many uses, so whatever you do, don’t rake them to the curb!

Mulch your perennials to protect them for winter. Now is the time to mulch around your perennials to protect them against bitter winter temperatures and fluctuations in temperature. Leaves are great for this purpose.

Plant a tree or shrub. You should already have your perennials in the ground, but you can plant a tree or shrub right up until the ground freezes. The root ball is big enough on a tree or shrub that it won’t heave out of the ground during the winter. The tree or shrub will be ready to go as soon as it  breaks dormancy in spring. If you’ve already purchased a tree or shrub, it’s much better to get it in the ground than to try to store it in its pot.

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