In most areas of the US the days are still warm and balmy, the nights cool, but not inching near the freezing mark yet, but it’s still not too early to begin thinking about preparing for winter and in the northern states and Canada, as well as parts of Europe, winter may be inching up, only weeks away.

That means planting spring-blooming bulbs, mulching areas that you want to protect from the cold and fertilizing. Personally, I like to do the last two items simultaneously. This is possible for me because I raise chicken, geese and ducks, and there is always plenty of bedding to clear out of the coop and runs.

Last winter I lost several winter-hardy perennials because that flower bed is up against the front steps and front of the house on the south side, so the snow melted off quickly, leaving the ground unprotected from the daily freeze-thaw cycle during the winter. To combat this, I plan to put at least two inches of mulch on it–coop bedding, shredded leaves, grass clippings, extra straw or any other similar items. This will combat the freeze and thaw issue, while providing nutrients to the plants as the snow slowly melts, carrying nitrogen to te plant roots.

Fertilizing during the winter can make a big difference to your yard, and not just your flowers. After the hard, hot summer, your grass might benefit from a quick nitrogen burst, and again before the cold hits hard, a fall fertilizer with lots of phosphorus can stimulate root growth to help your grass and plants come up stronger and happier next spring. Many of my irises failed to bloom this spring, despite having been int he ground for a full year, so I’m going to make sure they get a shot of fertilizer before I mulch them for winter.

As for spring bulbs–if you have drawn up a plan of your flower beds, marking where you put the bulbs can make it easier to avoid digging them up in the spring before they emerge if you are inclined to dig around late int he winter. I failed to do this last fall or this spring, so I’ll have to rely on my memory for where the bulbs all reside–and replant those that I accidentally dig up. Time for me to get out the grid paper.