Where was all this nice rain this summer when we really needed it? Now that it's time to get out in the yard and prepare our gardens for the winter season, we get wave after wave of chilly rain. While the rain is needed to hydrate our trees and shrubs, I would appreciate just a few hours of sunshine to inspire me to join the birds and squirrels outdoors. For now, I'm just sitting by the fireplace making a list of tasks I'll need to accomplish when the weather breaks.
Gardening task lists can serve two purposes. When I get out in the yard I don't get overwhelmed with all the tasks and where to start. It gives me a plan. Also, how often have you worked for hours around your home or garden and felt like you haven't gotten anything done?
If you check tasks off your list as you complete them, you will see how much you've actually accomplished. Post your list where family members can see it. I find they don't mind helping, they just don't recognize what needs to be done, like you do.
Deer are beginning to fatten up for the winter and our gardens are going to be even more tempting than during the summer. Start deer proofing your yard by wrapping soft foliage evergreen shrubs like yews, arborvitae and cypress with landscape burlap. Mice and voles will be looking for a toasty warm place to over winter as temperatures drop.
Don't mulch roses and other shrubs until we have had consistently low temperatures and rodents have decided where they are going to spend the winter. I recently read an article that said mice don't like the smell of peppermint and suggested putting peppermint oil on cotton balls and place them around the base of shrubs prior to applying mulch. This will keep the little critters from hunkering down in the mulch and feasting on the bark.
It's unlikely we will have to water again this season so pack up your hoses and drain them of water if they will be stored in a place without heat. Freezing water expands and can damage hoses. Freezing temperatures and water can also damage concrete statuary and other garden decorations so be sure to store these in a safe dry place.
The EPA recommends that you check your lawnmower owner's manual for information on draining the fuel system for winter storage. If the owner's manual says the gasoline can be removed and it can be done easily, the gasoline should be carefully drained from the tank and collected in a clean, approved storage container. If there is only a small amount of gasoline in the system it can be removed by operating the engine until it stops. If the gasoline cannot be easily removed, EPA says a gasoline stabilizer should be added to the fuel in the tank. To minimize air space in the engine's fuel tank, fill the tank full with the gasoline/stabilizer mixture. The engine should be operated for a few minutes to draw the stabilized gasoline into the carburetor.
Cydney Steeb, Advanced Master Gardener, can be contacted at Emmet Conservation District, 3434 M-119, Harbor Springs (231) 439-8977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Gardening Wit and Wisdom column runs every Wednesday.