Don’t desert your garden yet! Tasks for early winter weather in WNY

harvesting sage in early winter
In early winter, harvest cool weather herbs such as sage and parsley. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I wasn’t sure whether to use “early winter” or “late autumn” in the headline. Technically, winter doesn’t start until Dec. 21.

Yet we have already gotten snow and more is in the forecast, so I went with winter. Then again, the snow keeps melting, and many of us still have leaves on the trees.

Maybe we should call this season “wintumn.”

Whatever you call it, there are still tasks you can do in your garden.

Harvest herbs and cold weather veggies

If you have herbs or cold-weather vegetables still growing, such as parsley, sage, onions and peas, don’t forget to harvest them. Use the herbs to make flavored vinegar. You can extend the season by covering them with leaves or using a grow tunnel.

Put away your breakables

Anything that’s breakable, such as glass garden ornaments, ceramic bird baths or ceramic pots, should be brought inside. High winds and falling branches can smash glass items, and ceramic items can crack in the cold.

Bring in hoses, plastic fountains & rain barrels

Even plastic containers can crack if the water inside them freezes and expands.

Bring your hoses in now; you probably won’t be using them anymore this season.

You might think that plastic wall-hanging fountains would be okay because the top of the basin is completely open, allowing freezing water enough room to expand. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We left our fountain out one winter and it cracked. The crack allows water to drain, so it now holds succulents and we leave it outside all winter. We definitely remember to bring in our newer fountain!

It’s about time to remove the downspout from your rain barrel. A rain barrel filled with water can crack when the water freezes.

Water from rain and melting snow can accumulate in your rain barrel even if you have taken away the downspout, so you may want to store your rain barrel in a garage or shed or tip it on its side.

Store lawn furniture

If you’re not planning on sitting outside in the next week or two, you probably won’t be sitting outside anymore this season. Bring in the furniture to protect it from the weather.

Mulch perennials

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.

Pull weeds

The ground isn’t frozen in my neighborhood, and with the rain we have gotten lately, the soil is soft. It’s a great time to pull weeds.

Be careful when you pull weeds that are full of seeds; you don’t want to scatter those seeds everywhere. Don’t compost weeds that have seeds on them– when you spread your compost, the seeds can sprout and you’ll have a garden full of weeds.

Label your perennials

You may be able to recognize all of your perennials now, but next spring, they will be little sprouts. Will you be able to tell a perennial from a weed? Make sure you carefully label your plants.

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