Things To Do Right Now, If You Want To…
When the weather is wild, it really is not very tempting to wander out into the garden, much less do anything. However, after a cold windy start, winter has turned mild again. On warm-ish days, the soft rain feels like a benison, pattering gently on fallen leaves and stirring up earthy scents that whisper already of spring.
Please do not let me hear any complaints from gardeners about rain. Our pure and abundant winter rain is what keeps the Northwest green and lush. Without ample winter rain, our gardens, parks, and woodlands would look very different. That said, few of us, however hardy and grateful, really enjoy working out of doors in drenching downpours.
Thus, the wise will confine winter garden pottering to these soft days when the going is still fairly good. Weeds are always with us, and there is not bad time to go after them. To keep weeds from filling empty spots, pile beds high with newsprint, shredded paper or pieces of cardboard. Top that layer with shredded or small, fine-textured leaves. Flaked straw also works fine, as do dried grass clippings.
A reader wants to know how to tell which colored newsprint is safe to use in edible garden beds. In general, the dull, multicolored pages of ads and funnies are printed with garden-safe, soy-based inks (that’s what most newspapers use today). The glossy inserts, with brighter colors and shiny paper, are the ones to avoid, since they may possibly be printed with toxic, metal-based inks.
If you haven’t already done so, rinse, drain and coil up all your hoses. Though durable, hoses last longer when stored dry and out of direct sun and in a frost-free environment such as the garage. To keep them from being crushed or accidentally cut, coil hoses neatly on hooks or hangers in an out-of-the-way spot.
While you’re at it, rinse off shovels and rakes as well and hang them up out of the way. If you don’t already have plenty of them, this is a good time to add long rows of tool hangers along a garage or carport wall. Keep a bucket of clean sand mixed with linseed or canola oil by the door and shove each tool blade in this mixture several times to remove mud and grime. (It’s also great for cleaning hand tools.)
Shake or rinse off dirty tarps and let them dry completely, under cover if possible, before folding them up for winter storage to avoid or at least minimize molds and mildews. Turn buckets, containers, and pots upside-down so they won’t fill up with water and crack in the next deep freeze. Planted pots won’t be damaged even in a hard freeze, but be sure to empty any water jars that don’t have drainage holes. I put mine on their sides, filling the jars with gazing balls and glass garden ornaments for a bit of winter sparkle.
Clean Funky Gloves And Boots
Hand wash your gardening gloves, then turn them inside out and pin them on a line to dry. After a few days, turn them right-side-out again and they will dry completely. To refresh them, shake a little baking soda in each finger and thumb. This will remove any lingering odors and keep your fingers fresher as well next time you wear them.
Wash off mud boots, Wellies, or muck shoes inside and out, folding down the tops of tall boots so the inside can air out thoroughly. Stuff the toes with newspaper to help them dry, changing out the paper daily until all dampness is gone. Here, too, baking soda is an excellent refresher, removing odors and stains (to some extent, anyway). This same trick works beautifully on teenaged boys’ shoes, which can get astonishingly rank.