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Time to button up the yard, prepare for winter’s drifts

Heavy snow piled onto the fine branches of this Japanese maple could have easily broken many of the branches.
Heavy snow piled onto the fine branches of this Japanese maple could have easily broken many of the branches.

It looks like the weather is going to stay decent for the next week or so albeit with some rain. Perfect weather for finishing those last-minute fall-into-winter projects.

There is still time to rake up the leaves and needles in between the rain storms. Removing leaves from lawns and groundcovers now will allow light to get in and prevent dieback over the winter. My favorite method is to run over the lawn with the mower and blow the trimmings into piles that are much easier to pick up and use as mulch. This year’s crop is going on some very weedy patches near our back fence.

This last go-round with the mower also allows you to run the gas out of the tank before you store it for the winter. Because the engine is warm, it is also a great time to drain the engine oil out of the crankcase and put in fresh oil so you are ready to go in the spring. Sharpen the blade and all you will have to do in the spring is put in new fuel and pull the cord.

It’s time to get the grafted roses ready for the winter. Because many hybrid tea roses are grafted, the graft needs to be protected. The graft is the swollen part of the plant the branches grow out of. It is often not as hardy as the root stock. Start by cutting the rose down by half its height to keep any tall stems from whipping around in the winter wind. Mound dirt from another part of the garden over the graft and then pile on a foot or more of a coarse mulch like shredded pine needles, bark or straw. Shredded pine needles are perfect because they drain water away easily, are usually free and don’t blow away in the wind. Leave the mulch on until early April.

We are bound to get at least one good wet snowfall this winter, so have a few tools handy to knock the snow off tree branches before they break. Bamboo poles are lightweight and easy to handle. If a branch is heavily loaded and frozen, tap it gently to begin removing the snow. Loaded and frozen branches are brittle and will break easily. Try not to stand directly under a limb in case it comes down, and wear a hood so that snow doesn’t go down your neck. Be careful treading under trees so you don’t break other shrubs under the snow.

If you plan to get a living Christmas tree, dig the hole for it now, while the ground is thawed. Store the dirt out of the hole where it won’t freeze so you can easily shovel it into the hole at planting time. Drive a couple of tree stakes in the ground to help hold the tree in place over the winter. Remove them in the spring.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at pat@