Fall garden chores help prepare your garden for winter

Here’s a list of 13 tasks to prepare your garden for winter and take the extra work out of spring.

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You still have time (but not many) to take care of a few last-minute chores to prepare your garden and yard for winter and save time for next spring.

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1. Scoop up leaves/fallen berries: Don’t give mold, mildew, and other diseases a chance to colonize your lawn. Scoop up anything that might cause moisture or rot, such as fallen leaves or fallen crabapples. These are great additions to your compost bin.

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2. Leave fallen leaves on the bed: Leaves not only act as mulch (see #4), but they also provide overwintering habitat for ladybugs (aphid predators).

3. Mow the lawn: Mow the lawn one last time, but leave the lawn on longer than usual to help the lawn survive the winter in better condition. If you don’t want to use a rake, use a mower to suck up the leaves.

4. Mulch Trees, Shrubs, and Perennial Beds: Mulch serves many functions, including protecting root zones from the extreme cold of prairie winters. Leaves picked up by a lawnmower make excellent mulch.

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5. Cut back perennials: Doing this now reduces the chance of damaging early spring succulent growth. In my garden, it is a foliage plant that seems to start growing before the snow is completely gone. But it’s a balancing act. For some, above-ground dead vegetation grown from the previous season not only acts as a protective layer against low temperatures, but also traps an insulating layer of snow.

6. Water trees and shrubs: This is especially important for evergreen trees such as spruce and cedar. It does not grow in winter, but breathes and needs water throughout autumn, winter and spring. Deciduous trees and shrubs also benefit from a deep drink, providing spring reservoirs when they begin to grow again.

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7. Rotary Tillage: Prepare your vegetable garden and annual planting bed. This is a great time to enrich the soil with compost, manure, ground leaves, etc. Plowing the garden brings overwintering insects to the surface, which are eaten by birds or die from drying out.

8. Plant the Bulbs: Spring-blooming bulbs should be planted as soon as they hit store shelves in the fall. Ideally, it should take several weeks to take root. Think tulips, lilies, squills, grape hyacinths, and alliums. Invest now and reap dividends in early spring and summer colors.

9. Shut off the water outside, blow off the sprinklers and drain the hoses. Water expands when it freezes. This property means that ice floats and becomes a skating pond in the winter, but it also means that water-filled pipes and hoses burst when the water freezes.

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10. Insulation of lawn equipment: To insulate gas-powered equipment, drain the gas (for regular gas, add it to your car’s fuel tank or snow blower) or fill the tank according to label instructions. Fill with fuel and add fuel stabilizer. In fact, always use a fuel stabilizer when filling your jerrycan to prevent the fuel from going stale, even during the summer months. This is also a good time to do things like change oil on gas powered equipment, change air filters, sharpen blades, refill strings on lawn mowers, etc.

11. Clean and sharpen your tools: Clean your hand tools and sharpen things like shovels, hoes, and pruners before putting them away for the year. Lightly wipe with mineral oil to prevent rust.

12. Gutter cleaning: Gutters are excellent water distribution systems. However, they are also excellent leaf collectors, which reduces their ability to handle water.When most of the leaves have fallen off, go outside and remove the trapped leaves before the bitter cold hits. You will thank yourself the next time it rains.

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13. Have a snow shovel ready. Climate change will never bring tropical prairie winters. To get any of them, you’ll have to fly to another location in February.

(Erl Svendsen enjoys being called a climate zone denier for gardening in Saskatoon and experimenting with new and interesting perennials.)

This column is courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society, who can be reached by email at Check out his website at or our Facebook page at for a list of upcoming horticultural events.

News always seems to fly fast to us. From the latest on COVID-19, to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up.With that in mind, Saskatoon Star Phoenix is afternoon headline A newsletter is delivered daily to your inbox to help you stay up to date with the most important news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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Fall garden chores help prepare your garden for winter

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