Inside: With the holidays approaching, ready your refrigerator with a good cleaning. Wash interior walls with 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1 quart of hot water.
Clean your oven in preparation of holiday baking.
Organize your pots and pans. Nest them to save space and to make it easy to see which one you need.
Dust wooden furniture with a barely damp, super soft cloth. Experts say to steer clear of the spray wax.
Bring a shine to sterling using a mild silver cleaner. For a polish in a pinch mix 3 parts white toothpaste to 1 part baking soda and just enough water to make a wet paste. Old flannel shirts make the best buffers.
Check table linens for stains from past holidays. Soak delicate fabrics in a tub in a mild soapy solution and hand wash gently; blot with clean towels. Iron on a low setting and use a pressing cloth to prevent scorching.
Control insects on houseplants. If aphids, mites, scale or other insects infest any of your houseplants, slip a garment cover (the kind you get from a dry cleaner) over the plant and spray with insecticidal soap. The plastic tent will contain the spray.
Outside: After all the leaves have fallen, clean out your gutters so the melting snow will be able to drain.
Tidy garden beds. Cut back and discard any plant material that may harbor insects and any that show signs of disease. Do not compost diseased material. Clear garden areas and spread with a few inches of compost. It will decompose and release nutrients before spring planting.
If you are lifting any tender bulbs, remove any large clumps of soil and dry out the bulbs for a few days. Remove any soft or rotten spots before storing bulbs, clearly marked, in a cool, dry place.
Shut off water supply to the outside faucets. Then drain water by opening the spigots.
Inspect siding before bad weather hits. Hammer down any rusted nail heads. Using rust resistant galvanized or aluminum nails, fasten down loose clapboards, shingles and trim.
Weed flower beds one last time (pick a sunny day). Weeds that survive winter will be extra hardy come spring. Don’t put them in the compost.
Freezing and thawing is tough on roses. After a few hard freezes, mound soil around plant bases. A covering of soil will keep them toasty and protect roots from drying out.
Finish planting spring bulbs. Follow directions of the package for planting.
Add a layer of leaves to the compost.
Prevent deer damage to trees by surrounding young trees and shrubs with wire cages made from poultry wire or hardware mesh. Use stakes to hold cages in place.
Protect young trees from sun scald. Trees with trunks less than 4 inches in diameter are vulnerable to sun scald, a damaging form of sunburn caused when the low winter sun shines on the tender bark. Wrap young trees with tree wrap up to the first limb.
Provide aid for wild birds. As colder weather sets in birds have a greater difficulty finding natural food. They seek out bird feeders. Scrape out and wash feeders in a solution of hot, soapy water and bleach or white vinegar (about a cap full per bucket of water). Let feeder dry then replenish with seeds. Bird feeders can become camouflaged among surrounding trees; tie a bright ribbon around yours so passing birds won’t miss it. Suet holders and a freeze-proof water source would be appreciated by your bird friends too.
Remove accumulated leaves from your pond, especially if you have fish. The decomposition will rob them of oxygen.
Bring in sprinklers and drain garden hoses. Also bring in clay pots, or empty them and turn them upside down in a dry shed or basement.
Rake and shred leaves to use as a top dressing over newly planted bulbs. The nutrients will enrich the soil.
Winterize your power equipment. Disconnect the spark plug on your mower. Clean the air filter and take the blade to be sharpened. The shop will not be so busy at this time of year. If you still have fuel in your gas can, empty it into your car unless you have added stabilizer.
As your garden goes to bed for the winter, take a good look at its framework. Add evergreen shrubs as needed to create a pleasing winter scene. This is also a good time to plant trees for shade or screening.
Leave a hose handy for winter watering of any trees and shrubs planted in the last two years. Choose a sunny day at least once a month and water early enough in the day for it to be absorbed before nightfall. You will notice a difference in your plants come spring.
Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.