Roses growing on their own roots and grafted roses with the graft planted 2 inches below the soil line are best able to withstand the rigors of winter. But if, based on past experience, roses are not reliably hardy in your area, now when roses are completely dormant is the time to provide winter protection. Clean around the bushes, removing any rose leaves that could harbor diseases. Apply garden loam or compost through the center of the plant to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Once that is frozen, add 6 to 8 inches of wood chips or shredded leaves over the mound.
To ensure that you have plenty of strawberries to pick next spring, before temperatures go below 20 degrees F, mulch strawberry beds with clean straw. To eliminate many of the seeds often found in straw, pull the straw apart in a lawn area first or in some other area where the seeds can fall but not be a problem. Apply two to four bales of straw per 1,000 square feet of bed to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.
Follow Poinsettia Pointers
Poinsettias are available in more colors and forms than ever (including painted and glittered forms), fitting in with just about any home color scheme. University tests have shown that this plant is not toxic to pets, but the milky sap can be a skin irritant. Choose plants with bright green foliage all along the stem and with the least amount of pollen showing on the yellow true flowers above the colorful bracts. Keep them looking great for a long time by providing 60- to 70-degree F temperatures and bright light, avoiding drafts, keeping the soil evenly moist but not allowing plants to stand in water.
Select and Care for Christmas Trees
Choose-and-cut farms not only provide the freshest trees but also usually offer a variety of family fun experiences. Once home, make a fresh 1-inch cut across the bottom and place the tree in a stand with a large water reservoir that is away from heat sources. Keep the tree watered as long as it is indoors. If you choose a living Christmas tree, it should remain indoors a week or less. Dig the hole when the ground is not frozen, and cover the removed soil with a tarp. Plant the tree as soon as possible, then water and mulch.
Make Leaf Mold
This advice will come too late for those who are always ahead of the game, but for the rest of us, finishing up the leaf raking provides the opportunity to make leaf mold. Essentially, leaf mold is compost made of leaves. It is a cheap, easy way to have a soil amendment that helps improve soil structure and drainage. To get the quickest results, say by next spring, shred or chop the leaves with a lawn mower, dampen them, and place in plastic garbage bags. Tie the bag at the top and poke a few holes in the side for air circulation.