Watch for Heaving
Because our soil freezes and thaws so often through winter, bedding plants set out in the fall tend to pop out of the ground and dry out. Check often for pansies, dianthus, and other annual flowers that have heaved out of place, and gently push them back down into the soil.
Clean and Sharpen Tools
Now is a good time to clean and sharpen the blades on your hoes and spades, and to give all wood handles a rubdown with linseed oil. Run your mower until the gas is gone and then drain the oil.
While vegetable beds are at rest, blanket them with a 3 to 4-inch layer of manure. You can let it decompose on the spot and wait until the soil warms in the spring to dig it in. My favorite type is old horse manure, but any manure from grain-fed animals is great. The older the manure, the better, to prevent any nitrogen deficiencies in spring.
Water poinsettias to keep the soil lightly moist and rotate plants to give all branches an equal share of natural light. If a branch accidentally gets broken, rescue it right away and use it as a cut flower. Kept in a vase, a poinsettia cutting will often last for weeks.
Clean Up Asparagus
As an end-of-the-year ritual, clean up your asparagus bed. Cut down and rake up all withered foliage, pull out weeds and grasses, and mulch over the bed with a 2-inch layer of good compost. Add a mulch of clean straw, and your plants will be ready for another season of producing tender spears.