Now that the harvest moon has come and gone, it is time to think about tackling those last tasks in the garden before winter. A little preventative maintenance can save a handful of headaches in the spring. Here are a few jobs to consider tackling before the weather really gets cold.
By now, most people have finished using their irrigation systems but probably have not gone through the job of winterizing them. Clearing all of the stagnant water from your lines will save you the trouble of replacing broken fittings and split hoses in the spring. If you have above ground drip lines or black poly tubing, you should have the ability to open up the ends of the lines and allow any extra water to run out. Typically this means removing either the figure 8 piece or the end cap from each line. If there are low spots in the line, it is a good idea to help gravity along by starting at the water’s source and then slowly lifting the line in a hand over hand motion moving toward the end so that any extra water flows out from the hose and eliminates unforeseen puddling in the low spots. If you have a below ground irrigation system, you may need to put a little extra work into clearing the line. An air compressor can be a useful tool in physically ‘blowing’ out the lines. The strong jet of air does the work of pushing the water out of any low spots.
If you have garden hoses laying around, clear these of excess water as well. To eliminate any unnecessary weathering, coil up the hoses and put them inside an out-building or on the shady side of your house. Lessening exposure to direct UV rays can help lengthen the life of your hoses.
Gather up all of the hand tools that you may have left lying around the yard. Shovels, rakes, trowels etc. should be brought in for the season and put inside an out-building or at the very least under the eaves of your house. As with the hoses, the length of life for your handles can be extended by lessening exposure to moisture and UV radiation. Some people will take the time to polish any rusty tools with a small piece of sand paper and then oil the tools for the winter. This is always an option for the more ambitious and conscientious gardener. At the very least, look over the handles of your shovels and rakes. If they are starting to splinter and crack, consider replacing them now so that you are ready to go next spring. Spare handles can be purchased at most home supply stores.
For your wheelbarrows, roll them in out of the weather and prop them up against a shed or wall so that water does not gather in the bucket. As with the shovel handles, wheelbarrow handles are also replaceable. Rather than purchasing a new wheelbarrow, consider repairing the handles instead.
Mulch any unused garden beds to protect from wind and water erosion. Good mulches are grass and alfalfa mixes. Be sure any mulch you are purchasing is weed free. Spread the mulch to a depth of 4-6” over the top of dormant beds. In the spring, this mulch can be turned into the soil and allowed to decompose.
And finally, if you keep a notebook, make a short list of any improvements or changes you want to make to the garden next season. Do it now while it is fresh in your mind.