Five "must do" tips for winter landscapers

Once again, it's that special time of year between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The days are shorter and there seems to be more to pack into each of them.

With so many demands on our attention, it's easy to forget about our landscape at this time of year. Especially when it's really cold outside! But there are some garden and landscape-related activities that you should be taking care of this month. I call this...

The "What To Do Before Santa Gets Here" list!

1. It's Tool Time

Your tools are probably leaning against the wall of your garage or basement, still caked with the dried-on dirt from the last time you used them a couple of months ago. Admit it! I'm right aren't I? Invest a few minutes and your tools will actually be useable next spring.

Clean mud and dirt off shovels, forks and trowels at a very minimum. You can then rub the metal parts with an oily rag. If you've got some WD-40 handy, that'll work fine. Another tip: professional landscapers rub the wooden handles with linseed oil to prevent them drying and cracking.

2. The Mower

The Merrier Before you let the gas mower hibernate, start it up and let it run until the gas tank is empty. Clean off the blades, and if they need sharpening call up a mower service shop and see if they have any winter specials.

3. Give 'Em The Brush-Off

It's probably not snowing yet when you read this, but here's a tip to bear in mind when it does. Trees and shrubs can be damaged by the weight of heavy, wet snow. To prevent or minimize damage, gently shake the branches of delicate trees and shrubs so the heavy snow falls away. You can also use a broom to brush snow from the branches. But resist the urges to whack the branches with the broom! You could cause severe trauma to the poor tree. And there's a good chance that a heavy chunk of ice will fall directly onto YOU.

4. Don't Leave Me This Way

Here's a timely reminder from the folks at the Extension Service of Texas A & M. Don't let fallen leaves remain on the lawn all winter. Either mow them back into the lawn, collect them to be used as a weed suppressing and water conserving mulch, or compost them for use next spring and summer to improve the soil. Leaves left on the lawn can cause disease problems if a thick layer keeps the grass too wet and dark. You can find a link to the complete article at the end of this column.

And an "indoor" tree reminder...

5. Pining Away

"O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how are thy leaves so verdant!" The answer is simple: water! If you want your tree to stay green and attractive instead of shedding millions of pine needles on your carpet, think H2O. A "living" tree needs a thorough watering before you bring it into the house; and it shouldn't stay indoors much longer than ten days if you want it to survive outdoors after the Holidays. A "cut" tree needs water, too. Saw a couple of inches off the cut end and check the water level once or twice a day. You might be surprised to know that a cut tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water a day.

Here are some useful resources! Some useful winter garden tips from the University of Nebraska Extension Service can be found at Go to the Texas A & M Extension site and find a bunch of winter lawn and plant care ideas. Here's a link to December plant care tips from the New York Botanical Garden: For Christmas tree tips from the National Safety Council, go to