(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 12, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
1. Clean your Tools:
First, use a stiff brush to remove excess dirt, and then scrub off rust with steel wool. Spray or wipe on lubricating oil before storing in a dry area.
2. Clean your pots:
If you're like me, your garage and patio are littered with empty plant pots of varying sizes. Dump the excess dirt into the compost pile, rinse the pots with water (or a mild bleach solution, if you suspect fungal disease was present in the pot), scrub with a stiff brush and allow to air dry. Arrange and stack pots according to size, and store.
3. Tend to your houseplants:
Polish large leaved-plants with a soft cloth soaked in a mild solution of water and stale beer. If you want leaves to really shine, use a commercial plant-polishing product. Waxes and oils tend to block plant pores and attract dust, though, so watch out for those. Repot those plants that need it. Keep all indoor plants away from cold drafts and hot furnace vents during the winter.
4. Clean out old chemicals:
Determine which pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc., are ready to be thrown out. (Most will last about two years.) Check with your local solid waste management authority, environmental agency, or health department to find out whether your community has a household hazardous waste collection program or a similar program for getting rid of unwanted, leftover pesticides. Whatever you do, please DON'T pour products -- even organic ones -- down the sink, into the toilet, or down a sewer or street drain. And don't re-use empty containers - just throw them away.
5. Go through your seeds:
Seeds more than two years old should probably be thrown away. If you're not sure, test their viability by folding a few seeds in a wet paper towel and laying the towel someplace warm for a few days, ensuring it remains damp. If the seeds germinate, they're obviously still ok. The best way to store seeds is in screw-lid jars or in zip-top plastic baggies.
6. Start a scrapbook:
Go through old gardening magazines and cut out favorite pictures, articles, growing tips, etc., then organize them and paste in a scrapbook. This can actually be a winter-long project if you've got stacks and stacks of gardening magazines like I do.
7. Learn something new:
Interested in making a hypertufa container but not sure where to start? Want to learn the basics of designing an attractive container arrangement? Get on the Internet and do some searching. There's a world of resources out there.
8. Feed the Birds:
Be sure your backyard friends are taken care of. Make your own suet cakes by mixing bacon grease with peanut butter and birdseed. Participate in the Christmas Bird Count this year, which starts on December 14. Visit the Audubon website for more details:
9. Start a garden journal:
Keeping records of what works and what doesn't is invaluable in gardening. Taking pictures of your landscape throughout the seasons is also helpful in determining how to tweak here and there. Online gardening journals and blogs are becoming more and more popular, not only for keeping track of your own garden, but to share it with other gardeners across the planet. Most blogging sites make it easy to compose and post entries, as well as pictures.
10. Visit your local nursery:
Treat yourself to a new houseplant, garden book or some new gardening tools. You know you've worked hard all year...go for it! Or, spread the joy of gardening and buy something garden-related for a loved one. Plants make great gifts for any occasion.