Put away your rakes! When leaves fall into your beds, leave them. They're supposed to crumble and decompose over winter to enrich your soil. Spend your time on more important projects.

Protect your pots. Don't lose them to freezing weather. Clay pots are especially vulnerable to freezing since their walls are porous. When water within the clay freezes, it starts to degrade the clay. If the soil inside the pot itself freezes and expands, the whole pot could crack.

The solution is to empty and store the pots under a tarp or inside a shed or garage.

Glazed ceramic pots aren't as vulnerable to winter damage but the ones with a rounded shape can certainly crack when wet soil inside them freezes. Make sure to empty them as well.

I grow many of my lilies in pots so I can enjoy their fragrance and beauty on the patio. While lilies are hardy, those grown in pots need extra protection in winter. After cutting back the stems, store the potted lilies in a very cool spot such as a shed, garage, crawlspace or basement. You can also dig a trench and nestle the pots at soil level. Fill soil in and around the pots.

Any potted perennial or shrub can be protected in these ways. The problem facing them is that cold air attacks the roots from all sides. Even the hardiest of plants can't deal with that so it's vital to protect them.

So forego the rake. Focus on protecting your pots, potted plants and allowing the leaves to enrich your soil.