First Snow Of The Season: What’s A Gardener To Do?

SnowDrift-PlaygroundWe all know snow will eventually fall, and late October/early November will almost always see the first morning where we wake up covered in a blanket of white. If, like me, you’re a little behind in getting to your fall cleanup I have painstakingly prepared the following tips and tricks to ease your way into winter:

Jesse’s Fall Cleanup Tips for Procrastinators:

  • Don’t worry about pruning your roses, cutting back perennials, or pulling out your vegetable garden. These things are all very important, but they can wait. The items I have listed below are far more urgent.
  • Rake up as many leaves as you can before it begins to rain/snow. Once moisture comes, these will be a real pain to clean up. The same goes for the digested dog food your furry friends leave in the yard.
  • If you have any fall flowers that are still looking gorgeous (Mums, Asters, and Pansies come to mind), or fall produce that has lots of life left (think Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, and Cabbage), make a plan to protect them from the elements. These plants are frost hardy, but 13ºF is more than they are prepared to handle. Frost cloth or a cold frame will do the trick, although a 5-gallon bucket will suffice in a pinch. The goal is to trap air around the plants, providing a buffer against the frigid air outside.
  • Examine the trees around your property. Are there any branches that look like their grip on life is tenuous? If you can safely do so, prune them now. Take special care with trees that still are holding onto their leaves, especially if those leaves are still green. These can catch a ton of wet heavy snow, which means the potential for limb breakage is high. Don’t park your car under any of these branches. Some trees that are particularly prone to breaking include cottonwoods, willows, old crab apples (especially if they have diseased limbs), maples, and elms.
  • Disconnect your hoses and drain the water from them.  Broken water pipes are never fun to deal with, much less so when it is cold out.
  • Shut down, drain, dry, and cover any concrete fountains, and cover outdoor pottery to prevent cracking.
  • Send your lawn to bed well-fed and happy with Jirdon’s Winterizer Fertilizer or Alpha Organic Turf Winterizer
  • Wrap up any planting you want to do this fall. We’ve got free moisture on the way, plus it is best to avoid working the soil immediately following precipitation as this can lead to severe soil compaction.
  • If you carved pumpkins for Halloween, bring them inside. Frozen pumpkins will rapidly start to resemble pumpkin pie filling.
  • Dig out that snow shovel while you are still in a good mood and your fingers aren’t numb.
  • Finally, and most importantly, make sure you are stocked up on all your favorite treats. My list includes hot chocolate, bourbon, wool socks, and a good book.

Originally published on October 25th, 2011. Updated on November 2nd, 2021.