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Gardening: Round out your pre-winter chore list with these tasks

Front to back: The King family, Essence, Devin, Donovan,  Drevon,  and mom Tiva rake leaves in front of their home on West Eleventh Avenue on the South Hill on Nov. 8, 2015. Leaves and pine needles can be recycled to mulch flower beds to protect plants from winter cold and act as a weed barrier for those pesky early weeds, Pat Munts writes. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Front to back: The King family, Essence, Devin, Donovan, Drevon, and mom Tiva rake leaves in front of their home on West Eleventh Avenue on the South Hill on Nov. 8, 2015. Leaves and pine needles can be recycled to mulch flower beds to protect plants from winter cold and act as a weed barrier for those pesky early weeds, Pat Munts writes. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The snow at the beginning of November was a wake-up call for gardeners who still had outdoor chores to finish before the cold really sets in. Fortunately, it all melted, and we got a reprieve, so here are a few reminders to help finish your chore list.

Rake leaves and needles off lawns and evergreen ground covers. Without access to light over the winter, the grass and plants can die back and struggle to recover in the spring. That said, the leaves and needles can be recycled to mulch flower beds to protect plants from winter cold and act as a weed barrier for those pesky early weeds. Pine needles make an excellent rose mulch, especially if they are shredded with the lawn mower before banking them around the roses. No, they don’t acidify the soil.

To protect shrubs and ground covers from becoming fodder for hungry deer, wrap the plants with deer netting held up with temporary T-posts. Set the T-posts in a triangle about a foot out from the plant and then wrap deer netting around the posts, securing it with zip ties. T-posts and netting are available from local farm supply stores like North 40 or Country Store. For ground covers, lay the netting over the ground cover and anchor it down with tent stakes or ground pins. Deer tend to browse on plants at the level of their mouths, so pay special attention to anything under 4 feet. Deer repellents can be applied to evergreen shrubs and some ground covers, but they will need to be applied more frequently than the directions often indicate. Remember, though, if we get a very hard winter, the deer will eat anything they can reach.

Be sure to run the fuel out of lawn mowers and gas-powered yard equipment. It’s no fun to pull the mower out in the spring and not have it start because the carburetor got gummed up with old fuel. Check that your snowblower and generator are in running order and get a fresh gallon or two of fuel for them. If you have to get them repaired in the middle of a storm, you probably won’t get them back quickly enough to make a difference.

Clean up your hand tools as you put them away. With a little care, most tools will last a lifetime. Brush the dirt off digging tools with a stiff wire brush and then cover the blades with a light coat of oil to keep rust from forming. Wipe dirt off wood handles and then apply a light coat of mineral oil to protect the wood. Using a piece pf coarse sandpaper, sand down any rough patches that could create splinters. Clean off the blades of hand clippers and pruning saws, especially if they have pine pitch on them. Rub the blades with a little hand sanitizer to remove the pitch. Oil the hinges. Sharpen the blades with a file so they will be ready to use in the spring.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 35 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening .com.