Do these tasks now to get your yard and garden ready for winter

Geese migration

We have had frost and even our first snow. There is termination dust halfway down the mountains and it is distinctly jacket weather. Yet there are still blooms in our yard and, I suspect many others. It is something terrific to see flowers in outdoors this time of year.

We have sweet peas, petunias, calendula and a new one to me, Diascia — which I thought was nemesia all summer long. Admittedly, most of these flowers are in containers on porches and in window boxes, both of which are preferred, warm locations. Still, their names will be noted. These are plants — or better put, locations — which extend our season, and you should really consider planting there again for late fall effect next year.

And, we even have lots of beautiful dahlias blooming their heads off. Really! OK, these are indoors under our lighting system. I brought in several and they are continuing to produce.

Yes, lights need to go up. This is the first of what will be many instances of pestering so you will finally set up some lights under which to grow plants during our long indoor growing season. Grow lights in Alaska are not just for starting seeds. Imagine dahlias in mid-October!

OK, back outdoors there are some easy chores. First, stake pathways and driveways to guide snowplows and locate snow pile areas. This will protect lawns and garden beds. You really only need to provide guidance for the first few snowfalls. Chances are whatever you use will get run over or stepped on, so I suggest avoiding the expensive reflectors and such. Simple survey flags will do and can be unbent after damage. They come in fluorescent red, orange and green colors, so they can even be somewhat decorative in a garish way.

You should next mulch your garden beds if Mother Nature hasn’t done so already. Two or 3 inches of leaves should give adequate cover. Since you should pull it off in early spring to speed up soil warming, you can make it thicker just to be on the safe side. This layer prevents plants from starting too early and provides food for soil microbes that will feed your plants next season.

You can still plant garlic, trees and shrubs and spring flowering bulbs. The only difficulty will be finding them. The spring flowering bulbs should be on sale by now. Buy the biggest ones you can find.

Did you disconnect your hoses from outdoor faucets? Does your water need to be turned off from the inside? Busted pipes are no fun and can be hard to fix. Temperatures are still moving into the 40s during the days so you can drain your hoses, too, before rolling them up and putting them away.

Empty any container that will fill with water and freeze. We use a black, 55-gallon garbage pail in our greenhouse to hold water. One year I didn’t empty it, stupid me, and it split during one of the freeze and thaw sessions. Five-gallon buckets, watering cans and the like all react the same way.

I have already mentioned Plantskydd, which can be painted on tree bark to hopefully ward off moose. It is best to apply before freezing temperatures set in. There isn’t much else you can do to keep moose at bay. I have never found the Irish Spring soap trick to work, by the way.

Finally, while it is too early to put up bird feeders as the occasional hungry bear is still wandering around, it is not too early to get seed, as long as you keep it safely indoors. Frankly, sunflower seeds are what our birds go for and not much else. Clean last year’s feeders and buy new ones if you need to. You should put them out while it is easy to do so. Just don’t fill them until the bears hibernate, usually around Halloween.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Tools: Put yours away where you can find them in early spring. Stay organized. Oil wood handles and spray WD-40 or put oil on metal parts.

Tree lights: Make sure you put them up so you can take them down as the tree grows.

Indoor plants: Keep checking for bugs and slugs. As the heat goes on in our homes, plant insect populations increase.

Lights: Get yours going. Check bulbs and replace if necessary.

Amaryllises: Withhold water and let them go dormant in the dark for eight weeks.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2020 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Reach him at