Don't let Friday's snow trick you into thinking you're finished in the garden this season.
If you haven't completed your fall cleanup, it's crucial to do it now to avoid problems in spring, especially with insects that like to winter over on plants and diseases that hide in soil and debris.
If you have dead plants strewn all over the garden, leaves and twigs lingering beneath healthy plants, piles of brush, clay pots left outside to freeze and crack, or containers and tools left leaning on garden fences, there is still work to be done.
This is the best time to clean up those garden tools. My favorite tool is my spade. I am not a tall person and I love my short-handled, sharp edged spade for digging. I make sure it stays sharp by using a rasp on the edges, giving it a good coat of oil to keep it from rusting and storing it in the shed, where I know it will be when I need it next spring.
That's not to say I haven't come across hand trowels and other small garden tools while digging in the dirt from one year to the next. I recently found one of my favorite hand tools buried under a pile of wood after it turned up missing for a year. How it got there, I have no idea, but I was certainly glad to have it back. Normally I try to keep everything in the same place, but once in a while, something will get away from me while working in the yard.
Get all of those garden tools cleaned and oiled and you'll be much happier next season.
As long as the ground hasn't frozen solid, it isn't too late to pot up some perennial herbs to bring inside. I love to see a pot or two of chives or parsley on my kitchen window. They don't grow as vigorously in the house with the low light of winter but enough that I can pinch off a few leaves or sprigs when I need them. Any time plants are brought indoors for winter, you should cut back watering them and don't fertilize. There isn't enough natural light to keep them growing the way they did outdoors, and they shouldn't be forced.
What you can force, however, are spring flowering bulbs. Instead of planting all of those tulips and daffodil bulbs you bought at the garden center, save a few to put in pots for winter blooming. These bulbs need several weeks of cold temperatures to break dormancy, but you can duplicate that in the back of your refrigerator. At least 12 to 14 weeks of temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees should do the trick. Don't be afraid to mix them up a bit by planting a few bulbs of crocus with tulips and hyacinths all in the same container.
Cut down any foliage from plants that grow back from their crowns. These would include iris, butterfly bush, fall sedum, coreopsis and coneflower, to mention a few. There is no need to leave these dead stalks standing up in the garden. Some might think they add winter interest if left alone to accumulate snow, but there should be enough of that with plants like climbing roses, potentilla and clematis that shouldn't be cut back.
Now is also a good time to clean up any weeds in the garden. By now most of them have probably been knocked down or killed by frost. Get them out now to avoid their vigorous growth in the spring.
Finally, keep an eye out for insects, especially the nasty Viburnum leaf beetle. The beetles are gone, but if you had them on your plants this summer, they are easily seen once the leaves fall. The egg cases look like small sewing stitches on the undersides of tender branches. After nearly losing my Viburnum two years ago, I am extra vigilant with my plants, not only pruning away any branches with evidence of egg cases, but their nasty larvae is one of the first things I look for in spring.
I hate cold weather, but I don't mind putting on several layers of clothes and spending a cool fall day cleaning up the garden. It makes life so much easier next season.