The holidays are approaching, which means house guests and big meals. Here’s how to get ready for the excitement.


• Ready your refrigerator with a good cleaning. Wash interior walls with 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1 quart of water.

• Clean your oven.

• Organize 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 cloth. Experts say to stay clear of spray wax.

• Check table linens for stains from holidays past. 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 the dry cleaner) over the plant and spray with insecticidal soap. The plastic tent will contain the spray.


• 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.

• Inspect siding before bad weather hits. Hammer down any rusted nail heads. Using rust resistant galvanized or aluminum nails, fasten down siding, 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 on the package.

• Add a layer of leaves to the compost pile.

• 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 of less than 4 inches in diameter are vulnerable to sun scald, a damaging form of sunburn caused when the low winter sun shines on tender bark. Wrap young trees with tree wrap.

• Provide aid for wild birds. As colder weather sets, in birds have 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 be camouflaged among surrounding trees; tie a bright ribbon around yours so passing birds won’t miss it. A freeze-proof water source would be appreciated 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 blades to be sharpened. If you still have fuel in your gas tank, empty it into the car unless you have added stabilizer.

• As your garden goes to bed, 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.

• Choose a sunny day to water any newly planted trees and shrubs. At least once am month 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.