Winter’s surprise arrival caught many of us with a “to do” list that wasn’t quite “done.” We’d ask the procrastinators among us to identify ourselves by raising our hands — except, of course, we wouldn’t get around to that right away, either, so what’s the point?
The same can be said of some of the chores we didn’t get to.
A few of them are just going to have to wait until spring, but there are very good reasons to tackle some chores, no matter how unsavory the thought of battling the cold, snow and ice might be.
Clean the gutters. Leaf-clogged gutters “are going to cause havoc with backup issues,” said Bob Kaufman, owner of Kaufman Roofing in Minneapolis. But whether you can still clean gutters “is getting pretty borderline.” Earlier this week, Kaufman had to pull a crew off a gutter job because everything was frozen. When (or if!) temps get above freezing, he recommends cleaning the gutters right away. If we get a sunny day, even temperatures in the mid-20s should be enough to thaw the gutters on the south and west sides of a house, he said.
Stash the garden hose. It might be buried under a pile of frozen slush, but if there’s still water in the hose, it’s not likely to make it through the winter without cracking or rupturing. Pry it off the frozen ground and take it someplace warm enough — a heated garage or the basement — to melt any ice that has formed inside. Once the ice melts, drain the hose, coil it up and store it.
Shut off the outdoor water spigot. While we’re on the subject of ruptures, you really don’t want this to happen to the water pipes leading outdoors. If you have a frost-free faucet (it has a long stem that closes a valve inside the house), you’re in good shape. If not, turn off the spigot’s shut-off valve inside the house and open the valve to let the water and/or pressure from the expanding ice escape.
Give up on raking. “If you didn’t get your yard raked, you’re done until spring,” said Bob Mugaas, a retired University of Minnesota horticultural educator. Matted leaves can cause snow mold to form on lawns come spring, but raking now could be more damaging to your lawn than the mold. “It may make you feel better” to rake, he said, “but it won’t make your grass any better.”
Put away your pots. If you’ve got ceramic, terra cotta or even concrete planting containers, empty the potting soil (if you can) and store them in the garage or basement. If the soil is frozen in place, move pots into the garage as is. If you leave them to the elements, they can chip, crack or split.
Mulch now. No sense in waiting to mulch young shrubs and trees, tender perennials or any plants that need a little TLC to make it through winter. To protect plants from extreme temperature swings, add a thick layer of leaves or straw around the base of the plant — right on top of the snow.
Protect the A/C. Outdoor units don’t need to be covered entirely to get through the winter, but you should protect the top from falling icicles. “The only real danger is from ice falling on them,” said Summer Harty, customer service supervisor for Standard Heating & Air Conditioning in Minneapolis. If you don’t want to wrestle a cover over the unit, something as simple as putting a piece of plywood on top of it will suffice. If you do get a cover, make sure it’s made of breathable material.
Take down the patio umbrella. Nothing flags a procrastinator like a snow-covered patio umbrella left standing outside all winter. But it will last longer if you haul it into the garage. If you really are intent on flaunting your procrastination, you always can leave the Christmas decorations up until May.