- Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 1, 2011

Leave whimsical garden items for Old Man Winter

By T.C. Conner/The Write Gardener
Allied News

— In the latest edition of Keystone Wild!Notes editor Jessica Sprajcar says, "Fall marks the prelude to a cold, white, winter, but it also signifies the ever changing, ever impressive nature of the environment."

I think gardeners are extremely in tune with the changing seasons, we have to be.

But the one settling in on us now might be the hardest to endure. What's a gardener to do to keep her outdoorsy self busy during winter?

As I write it's 61 degrees and cloudy, on days like this when you can still get outside without worrying about frostbite, take some time to do a little checking up on things.

For instance, it's a good idea to make sure all the garden tools and supplies are properly stored.

Before I began keeping my tools organized trowels seemed to have a magical ability to grow legs and wonder off, never to return.

And packets of seed were constantly showing up in odd places: my sock drawer, the medicine cabinet, and once in a CD case.

I can blame Old Man Winter for taking out more than one or two of my clay pots.

Terra cotta, clay, and most stone-ware pots and containers become brittle if exposed to extreme cold.

They'll often crack and break on their own, without us even touching them, and it doesn't matter if they're empty.

If you've still got a perennial or two potted up in nice containers, you might have time to keep both safe if you plant the plants out in the garden before the ground freezes and put the pots in the shed.

If the shed is unheated, you could still run the risk of losing your container to extreme cold, so unless you have a warm storage area where temperatures won't drop below freezing, don't get all whiney if one of your favorite pots break.

There's more than one technique for cleaning tools, but the basic idea is to remove dirt and sharpen cutting edges.

You can purchase a sharpener that allows you to easily put the edge back on dulled blades of pruners and shears.

Modern sharpeners have stones positioned between two slots that grind two edges at once.

Simply follow the instructions included with your sharpener and sharpen blades until they are sharp to the touch.

Clean all loose dirt from your gardening tools and give them a sandy oily bath - add about 3-4 quart of motor oil to a five gallon bucket of damp sand and push the business end of your gardening tools into the sand.

If you have room in the bucket store several tools there, buy a few cheap screw hooks and hang the rest of your cleaned tools in the garage or shed.

The first snow that blankets the garden is also the last one I want to see.

But I won't belie the fact that Old Man Winter knows how to paint a pretty picture.

But it doesn't take very long for me to start giving those snowy scenes the cold shoulder.

Here in the "North of I-80 Snow Belt" the white stuff just keeps piling up until it has taken over most everything!

To help me cope with the blinding whiteness, I hang a few strands of colorful beads from the crabapple and pear trees in my backyard.

On windy days the beads dance and remind me that it's just the nature of the environment and spring will return soon.

Try leaving a few whimsical things out in the garden over the winter, things that won't get bothered by the cold.

Hang a few strands of old mardi gras beads from the branches of trees or from hooks on the back porch, set an old shiny red bowling ball out on an old stump so it'll contrast with the whiteness of winter snow.

Use the same creative genius that you use to plant the summer garden to plant a few happy things around the landscape that'll be fun to look at over the long winter.

Who says you can't plant bowling balls or beads? Not me!    

T.C. Conner is a columnist for Allied News. He can be reached at Check out his blog at His new book, "Through the Seasons with The Write Gardener," is available for sale at Allied News.

Published Nov. 23, 2011 in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201A Erie St., Grove City.