Sharpen and oil tools, also checking them to see how well they function. Previously used empty pots need to be scrubbed with a stiff brush and clean water. Then sanitize the pots using a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water. Submerge and soak the pots for 10 to 15 minutes. Then remove and rinse the pots. Dry for 24 hours before reusing them. Why all this bother? Dirty pots can host bacteria, fungus or mold from previous plants and soil that can infect new plants.
Outside, continue to weed if the soil isn’t too wet. To check for wetness, dig a 6 inch hole and gather some of that soil into a ball. If the ball remains intact when you release pressure, the soil is too wet to be worked. Give it another couple of days and try again. Trees and shrubs can be planted if the ground isn’t frozen. Water them well afterwards. Check your lawn for broadleaf weeds, pulling them or, if the weather is warm enough for the weeds to be actively growing, spot treat with a broadleaf herbicide.
Because the weather has been so warm this year, wait until February to prune trees and shrubs. Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia, camellia, azalea, rhododendron and some hydrangea until after they flower. Otherwise, you are cutting off this year’s buds. Perennials are dormant and can be cut back. I leave some, like coneflowers and black eyed susans, for the birds to forage for seed.
Look at seed and plant catalogs and plan next season’s garden. You can prepare the vegetable garden if the ground isn’t frozen or too wet. Remember that working wet soil results in compacted soil. Be patient.
Inside, check houseplants for insects that might have been brought in after spending the summer outdoors. Treat as needed.
But most importantly, spend time walking in your garden. The bare bones of the garden shine in the winter. Give yourself time to think. What did well last year? What did poorly and why? What was missing? What would add interest, beauty or taste good? Enjoy this time reflecting and preparing for the spring. It will come sooner than you think.
Written by Lorraine Cipriano, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer