Here are a list of few last things you should in the garden before winter hits.  Then grab a cup of hot cocoa with plenty of whip cream, and get ready for my next blog article about Good Winter Reads – books about nature and restoring the ecology of our land.

  1. Empty out your rain barrels. Put an extension to your downspout or close your gutter diverter so that the water flows into your yard and not into your barrel.  Freezing water inside your barrel will cause your barrel to crack.  Rinse the barrels out either now or in the spring if there is sediment on the bottom which can clog up the faucet.  Store them in your shed or garage,  or flip them over and put something heavy on top or tie them down so they don’t roll around on a windy day.
  2. Rabbit proof you smaller trees and shrubs. Place a 2-3′ chicken wire ring around plants with wire u-shaped garden

    I waited 2 years to get my American Currant shrubs, and I am not going to let the rabbits feast on these this winter! Chicken wire cages are my best defense.

    staples along the bottom. You can also cut and bend wire clothes hangers into u-shaped garden stables. In winter, rabbits  tend to munch on more woodies (trees and shrubs), when they can no longer find green herbaceous plants to munch on.  You’ll notice the small balls of  rabbit poop resembling sawdust during the winter because of this.

  3. Do not cut back your native perennials and grasses before winter.  These plants provide food and shelter to wildlife over winter.  The rustling of leaves, textures of leftover seed pods, and sparkle of frost covering your garden, all add winter interest.
  4. Leave the Leaves – Please read my article for  environmentally friendly tips for using leaves.
  5. Clean and Sharpen your tools so they’ll be ready to use next spring –  its worth the effort and your tools will last a lot longer. There are many websites on the Internet that show how to do this.
  6. Empty, clean  and put away your garden pots, especially ceramic or terra-cotta, which can crack with our freeze – thaw cycles.   You can put the old soil in your compost.
  7. If you planted some of your perennials late in the season, check for plants heaving out of the ground throughout the winter due to frost/thaw cycles. Gently press them back into the ground.
  8. Start planning for early spring clean up of your native area. If you have a prairie garden and want to burn, you must apply for your Illinois EPA permit and allow for at least 90 days wait time. So if you want to burn by end of March, (which is typical for our area) you need to apply BEFORE the end of December.  If you can burn, please make sure you are thoroughly trained and get the proper all the permits & permissions for your area.  Read my article “Preparing for the Arrival of the Red Buffalo” to learn  more about how I carefully prepare for a prescribed burn of my yard.
  9. Drain and put away your hoses.
  10. Collect some of the seeds from your native plants and spread them into other parts of your garden or share them with friends. Leave the rest for wildlife.
  11. Water your newly installed trees and shrubs one last time before the ground freezes if it is dry.
  12. Clean out your bird houses so they’ll be ready for the birds come spring. See my article Bird house, bath, feeder, bird bath  Fall Maintenance .
  13. Check for shrubs that are still green with leaves late in the season after most native shrubs have lost their leaves. Chances are these are the invasive buckthorn or Asian honeysuckle shrubs. After correctly identifying, dig or pull these out while small, or if they are larger, cut back and immediately apply herbicide to freshly cut stump.  Check the Internet for more information on proper herbicides for shrubs,  and also check recommendation when applying near waterways.  Carefully follow directions.
  14. Make it a point to walk through your garden during the winter to check for rabbit and other critter damage, frost heaving, but most of all, to enjoy the beauty of nature during the seasons.

Please share with us any other things you do this fall to prepare your garden for winter in an eco-friendly way. Thanks!

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