Winterize tools, equipment, containers

Question: We have moved to Idaho from a milder climate. What preparations should we make for the winter?

Answer: Plants which survive in the ground may have roots frozen in exposed containers. There is no large mass of surrounding soil to buffer cold temperatures, so temperatures in containers drop much lower and roots can be killed. So trees, shrubs and perennials growing in containers should be moved into a protected place such as a garage or unheated shed by early November. Water plants well before storage and check monthly so they do not dry out during the winter.

Expansion from freezing soil can cause ceramic or other breakable containers to crack and break. It is best to empty soil mixes from containers and start with fresh soil next year. Spread container soil over flower beds or vegetable gardens and mix them in next spring. Even non-breakable containers will weather the winter better if stored inside.

Hoses should be drained and stored inside for the winter. If left attached, water can back up in faucets and freeze and crack them. Repeated freezing and thawing of hoses left outside can damage and shorten their life. Faucets should be protected with insulating covers.

Power equipment such as mowers, trimmers and tillers should have gasoline drained from tanks. Then equipment should be run until all gas is used in the engine. This prevents gas from evaporating and leaving a sticky residue which gums up engine parts. Blades and tines should be cleaned and wiped or sprayed with oil to prevent rust.

Metal parts of hand tools should also be cleaned and oiled. Wooden handles can be rubbed with linseed oil to reduce cracking and slivers.

If you have not already done so, sprinkler systems should be turned off and water drained from the system to prevent freezing. If there is no low point for natural drainage, water should be pumped from the system using a compressor. Many sprinkler contractors offer this as one of their regular services.

Early November is a good time to put up Christmas lighting while weather is still relatively mild and you are not as busy with other holiday activities. Some landscape contractors have added Christmas lighting to their services. Contact them early before their time is completely booked.

Allen Wilson can be contacted at