Discourage Winter Weeds
You can suppress winter weeds in garden beds and along garden paths by laying down newspaper two sheets thick and then covering it with a light layer of straw. Remove it in spring when you're ready to plant, or dig it into the soil to add organic matter. Most newspapers are printed with soy-based inks, but to be safe, use only the black and white sections of the paper.
Prune grapevines back to a more manageable size now before sap begins to run. If you prune after buds begin to swell in spring, the cuts will ooze a sticky sap until they callous over. The sap won't harm the grapevines, but it can make a mess on sidewalks, porches, and decks.
Test Stored Seed
Before ordering or buying seed for spring planting, do a germination test on those leftover from last year. Place 10 seeds on a damp paper towel, roll or fold it up, and place it in a plastic bag in a warm location. Check to see how many seeds have sprouted after 7 days. The number of sprouted seeds gives you the percentage of viable seeds. If only half of the seeds sprout, sow twice as many seeds as you normally do. Better yet, order fresh seed.
Get Ready for Spring
Sterilize your tools and pots by soaking them for about 30 minutes in a bleach and water solution. I use one part household bleach to nine parts warm water. Rinse well and allow to air dry, then store the pots in an easily accessible area of the garage or tool shed. When you're ready to start gardening in the spring, your tools and pots will be ready, too.
Collect Wood for Grafting
To create more of your favorite fruit tree varieties, now is the time to make cuttings from them for grafting onto other fruit tree rootstocks. When pruning fruit trees, save pencil-thin branches from the previous season's growth, place them in plastic bags, and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.