This is the time of year many gardeners are working hard to get their gardens ready for winter. The list of things to do may be long, but there are a few things you can cross off right now to shorten your list. First, don’t cut back ornamental grasses. The grasses add height and interest to the garden and supply food for birds. Wouldn’t you rather look at tall, swaying grass, instead of a buzz-cut clump all winter long? Just like grasses, perennials should be left alone too.

They can also add texture and interest to a winter garden. The leaves and twigs also help protect the tender roots over the cold winter. A very common mistake many people make this time of year is raking up and throwing away all of the fallen leaves. Leaves add organic material to lawns and perennial beds and help build rich, nutritious soil. Use a mulching lawn mower to break up the leaves and work them into your lawn.

Crunch them up a little by hand and spread them around your perennial beds to enrich the soil and insulate the plants. If you have an overabundance of leaves, you can save them in a bag or bin over the winter and use them as filler in the bottom of large pots when spring arrives. This will save you money on soil and prevent the leaves from ending up in the landfill.

One thing you do want to do this time of year is keep a frost cloth handy. Watch the weather reports and cover your garden or flower pots if it is going to freeze or frost. Make sure the cloth reaches all the way to the ground and pin it down or weight the edges. The ground retains a lot of heat, so by anchoring the cloth all the way to the ground, you trap and take advantage of that additional heat.

Once your flowers have died back in the pots, make sure your pots don’t freeze. Pots and soil are a big investment, so keep them in good condition by dumping the soil into a clean bin or garbage can and store it for next year. Then, store the pots in a garage or shed or turn them upside-down in a sheltered spot outside and cover them with a tarp. You don’t want them to get wet during the freeze/thaw cycle in the winter or they may break or peel.

Hopefully, you were able to cross off a few tasks on your fall garden to do list and add a few things to save your investments from the cold winter elements!