Protect New Plantings
If you divided your perennials or set out new plants this fall, be sure to place a 3 inch thick layer of organic mulch around the plantings. A layer of organic mulch will help moderate soil temperatures and maintain and even moisture content to encourage good root development. In the spring your plants will be ready to perform to their fullest potential.
Prune Plants Only When Dormant
Avoid the temptation to prune trees and shrubs in late fall or early winter. They may develop new growth which will not have time to harden off before a deep freeze. Wait until you are sure the plants are dormant (January or February) before sharpening your pruning shears. You can prune any time between January and March without harming your trees and shrubs.
Store Root Vegetables
If your soil drains well you can leave your root vegetables in-ground and harvest at will. If you're your soil remains soggy after winter rains, you'll want to harvest your veggies and store them in a cool place. I store beets, carrots, turnips, and potatoes in lightly moistened sand in a garage that remains 35-45 degrees during the winter months. Onions and shallots need cool but dry storage so I put mine in slotted crates or mesh bags. Be sure to leave a 2-inch stem on acorn, Hubbard and butternut squash, and store them at 50 to 60 degrees.
Clean Out Gutters and Downspouts
Remove leaves, pine needles, branches, and other debris from gutters and downspouts to keep them flowing freely. You can avoid water damage to foundation shrubs when your downspouts are efficiently channeling rainwater away from the beds. Cleaning will also reduce the formation of ice dams which can damage your roof.
I like to pick up a few primroses for spots of bright color in my flower beds during the gray days of December and January. They're available in garden centers now and will continue to bloom all winter long. Most will live for several years so prepare the planting bed well by amending it with compost or other organic matter prior to planting.