Make Notes for Next Year's Garden
Jot down the names of seed varieties that you want to plant again, and perennials you want to buy next year because your memory may not be a satisfactory substitute for notes. Record plant combinations that you liked this past summer both in the garden and in containers. Over the winter, peruse magazines for plant pairing ideas, and tear pages out for reference next spring.
Sow seeds of perennials that need cold treatment, such as alliums, gentians, monkshood, primulas, and alpine plants. Sow in flats and move them outside to a shady location, or sow directly in an empty bed outside. Cover with pine boughs.
Once the ground begins to freeze and you have consistent temperatures in the low 20s F, it's time to protect modern hybrid roses from winter's wind and cold. The simplest method is to mound bark mulch around the base of the rose, covering the graft union (the swollen part of the stem near the ground). The mound should be about 1 foot tall. Wait until spring to cut back the canes above the mound. For added protection from wind, place four stakes around the bush, then wrap chicken wire or burlap around the stakes. Fill the center with mulch as deep as possible. You may need to tie up long canes so they'll fit inside the cylinder. Avoid plastic rose cones without ventilation holes at the top because they can heat up and damage plants.
Prepare Evergreens for Winter
Make sure evergreens have a good deep watering before the ground freezes because they continue to transpire, albeit slowly, during the winter. Protect young evergreens from wind damage during winter by wrapping them in burlap or using wooden protectors. Water these plants whenever the temperatures warm up in winter and early spring if there's no snow cover to provide moisture.
Planning for a Live Christmas Tree
If you are planning to buy a live Christmas tree that you'll plant after the holiday is over, dig and prepare the planting hole now before the soil freezes. Fill the hole with straw or hay topped with a board to prevent accidents. Place the soil from the hole in a nonfreezing garage or basement. When you're ready to plant, water the tree well before placing it in the hole, cover the root ball with soil up to where the roots flare out at the base of the trunk, and water again.