Don’t get caught off guard by freezing temperatures or frost.
Where It Freezes Regularly, Prepare Irrigation
- Drain and store hoses | Disconnect hoses from faucets (see below for how to protect faucets) and unwind on a slope (even a slight slope works well). Standing at or near the top of the slope, pull the hose toward you, coiling it neatly as you go. If possible, store the hoses in a protected location, such as a garage or storage shed. If not, remove all watering wands, nozzles or quick-connects and store them where it won’t freeze.
- Winterize automated irrigation | Turn off the main water supply, then open each valve one by one to relieve water and air pressure. If your system has a drain valve at the lowest point, use it to remove the water. Let valves open for a few minutes, then close. In cold zones where the ground regularly freezes, use an air compressor to blow out any remaining water. Drain drip irrigation systems in similar fashion.
- Protect exterior faucets | If forecasts predict extended period of freezing weather, shut off water to spigots. Drain water remaining in the line. Install insulated spigot covers to prevent them from freezing.
- Move or cover houseplants that are still outdoors. Most houseplants should be indoors well before frosty weather.
- Protect cuttings of plants you intend to overwinter, such as scented geraniums, pineapple sage or basil, by bringing them indoors.
- Check online or in a good gardening book to see if your favorite annuals can withstand a frost.
- Cover plants that can’t take frost.
Protect the Vegetable Garden
- Till the vegetable garden just before a hard frost or freeze to expose insects that have burrowed into soil to overwinter.
- Pick any remaining tender vegetables, such as peppers and any green tomatoes, that you plan to ripen indoors.
- Gather pumpkins and winter squash before frost. Leave a 1-2-inch stem and store them in a cool dry, protected location if you intend to use them later.
- Cut final basil stems – frost will turn them to mush. Stash stems in a vase of water to savor garden-fresh flavor for a few more days. Don’t put them in the refrigerator. It will turn them black. If stems root in water, start an indoor potted herb garden.
- Leave Brussels sprouts, carrots, mustard greens and kale in place. A good frost can improve flavor.
- Let frost kill foliage of tender bulbs such as Dahlia, Elephant’s Ear, Tuberous Begonia and Canna. After that, dig the bulbs with a garden fork, shake off soil and dry before storing for winter.
- Don’t worry about hardy perennials. After a hard freeze, cut back stalks of plants you don’t want to leave for winter interest.
Don’t Forget the Birds
- Switch on the heat. Plug in and turn on your birdbath heater or heated birdbath.
- Provide food. Fill bird feeders. Hanging a variety of feeders – including seed and suet blocks – will attract the most species.