It’s a bit disconcerting to find ourselves here again, at the end of the season, facing winter and wondering where the months have gone.


Photo credit: Kelly Fowler

We’re all dealing with it differently. Some of us will continue to grow lettuces in hoop houses hastily constructed over raised beds, while others will have disassembled those frames for an early spring planting of same.  Some of us have stocked up on red wine and firewood and put a volume of Robert Frost within easy reach of a favorite chair, and others are booking for a Caribbean cruise at the only time of year a Mid-Atlantic gardener can get away without guilt.


Photo credit: Kelly Fowler

I’m doing a bit of all four.  A couple beds of spinach and lettuce, six beds of newly amended but completely empty soil, a cellarful of red (slightly dented by a large rabble on Saturday), six cords of hardwood and Frost at the ready; and yes, my inner California Bohemian girl has yielded to pressure and will be joining the thoroughly middle-aged on a Rum Punch Romp when the north winds start blowing.

If only that were an end to it, but there are still crucial responsibilities greeting both the gardener and the non-gardener every time we head outside.

I’ll let the enthusiastic DIY’ers discuss the creative things one can do with caulk and weather-stripping, and deal instead with four tasks to prepare the home and garden for the long winter ahead.


Spring is busy enough. Why face it with water cascading between the sheetrocked studs of your new finished basement because you forgot to drain the lines in November? Most of the time there’s a really cold morning that triggers us to head down to the basement and sort it out, but a warm fall can throw the routine, and by the time you think about it again, the lines are frozen and you’re booking the plumber for March.  Much better that you set a specific day in late October or early November to drain them and stick to it.


spigotWhen you live in a woodland, the slightest mention of the word ‘gutters’ elicits a deep, heartfelt sigh. But even those who live without neighboring trees should check and make sure that downspouts are clear and gutters are in shape to handle the precipitation to come.

Ice dams are created when water cannot escape through clogged downspouts and temperatures keep ice building upwards towards the soffits and shingles of your roof. There it sits and expensively melts.  Pull out the ladder now or pull out the checkbook later.

Someday I plan on pulling out the checkbook AND watching someone else pull out the ladder, but that cruise isn’t going to pay for itself.


If you’ve put money into new landscaping and have had any indication that there are deer about, it’s wise to invest a little time to find out what deer like to eat (I love the Rutgers NJAES list at:

Quite frankly it would have been wiser to do this first, but that’s not how love works. So, check that list, buy a roll of five foot wire fencing and encircle those vulnerable new plants.

Remember however that these lists are not infallible – if your plant is particularly precious, you might want to protect it no matter what they’re saying in New Jersey.


rain barrelOpening the spigots and allowing precious water to drain out seems like blasphemy when you’ve spent all summer praying to the rain gods to keep them filled; but doing so will keep your plastic barrels and hardware in better condition for next year.

This is not necessarily true for wooden whiskey/wine barrels which can fall apart if not kept moist.  I’ve been allowing mine to freeze and thaw at will for 10 years now, and they’re still going strong.

When disconnecting barrels for the season, don’t forget to make sure to attach flexible hosing to your shortened downspouts to direct winter precipitation away from your foundation.

There are many other tasks to consider (see This Month’s Garden), but if you’re being a good steward of what you already own, you can curl up with that volume of Frost and feel fairly confident that you’re not slacking – even if you’re doing so on a deck chair in San Juan.

Reprinted with permission from The Frederick News Post