Gardening tasks to minimize winter damage

If you have a home greenhouse, it is a good idea to clear it out and wash all of the pots, trays and benches. Cleaning your greenhouse thoroughly will reduce pest problems next year.

Wash the windows inside and out to allow maximum light in if you are planning to grow plants over the winter. Scrub benches, fixtures and glazing bars with a disinfectant such as one part bleach to nine parts water to help reduce disease problems. Be sure to thoroughly hose off all surfaces when you are finished scrubbing.

• There are two approaches to managing the fuel left in four- and two-cycle engines. One option is to drain the fuel out of the gas tank and run the engine to get all of the fuel out of the fuel lines and carburetor. Fuel that sits for a long time ages, and residues can form that may plug the small fuel jets in the carburetor. Removing the gasoline eliminates this problem.

The other option is to fill the lawn mower and add a gas stabilizer into the gas tank and run the engine to get the treated gas into the carburetor. If you are using gas that has ethanol in it, it is important to use a stabilizer that is made to eliminate the corrosion that is associated with alcohol fuels.

• This winter, carefully shake snow off plants during heavy wet storms to minimize damage. Once the snow or ice has frozen on, it is best to let it melt off. Removing frozen snow or ice from plants can cause considerable damage. If you use ice melt, it is best to avoid piling snow up around the base of plants, as it can damage plants when concentrated in one area.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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