It’s the middle of November, and you are probably thinking of Thanksgiving more than gardening, but you still have a few more tasks before leaving the yard to the cold blasts that winter will provide. And those jobs go beyond getting the lawn raked.

My theory on end-of-the-season garden tasks is to do them in the fall, when you have more free time than you have in the spring. Anything you can do now, you don’t have to do later. You might argue that November weather is cold and raw, but it actually is about the same as April weather. April weather just seems better because you are comparing it to January, while November weather you are comparing to July.

So for starters, clean out your perennial beds — except for ornamental grasses, tall sedums and a few other plants that look good standing above the snow. Some garden experts argue that it is better for plants to cut them back in the spring, but in the spring I want to put in new plants, get the vegetable garden going and put down mulch where it is needed. And rodents can nest in your garden if nice, dry plant foliage is left behind.

In addition, taking a good look at the garden while you are cutting back gives you a chance to look for weeds. Clover, bittersweet, witch grass and other aggressive plants have been finding their way into the garden for the past few months. While they will not grow much over the winter, they won’t go away, either. As I said, you have more time now.

You’ll also want to prepare your trees and shrubs for winter. This does not mean covering them with rose cones, wooden structures or even burlap. You should have put in plants that can stand Maine weather without such protection.

But if you live in an area where deer are a problem, you should spray your plants with deer repellent. Garden centers carry a variety of products, and most of them work. And it is a good idea to switch the product you use occasionally so the deer don’t get accustomed to it.

Another spray you might want to consider is anti-dessicant, especially if your gardens get hit by high winds in winter months. These sprays, used on evergreens, keep them from drying out and going brown during the winter. They have to be applied when the temperatures are above freezing and below 40 degrees, so mid- to late November is ideal.

After you have taken care of your gardens, it is time to move to equipment and supplies.

Check all the fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides and liquids or granules that you use. Anything that is liquid should be moved to where it won’t freeze. With the items that won’t freeze, check that the containers are solid, and store them in a place where they won’t be in the way of daily traffic. Don’t leave paper bags of fertilizer on concrete floors (moisture from concrete migrates — you’ll develop a solid block of fertilizer by spring).

Clean up your tools. I have written in the past that I do my tool sharpening in the basement during the dead of winter, but I don’t want to haul all the dried mud to the basement and then sweep it up. At least clean your tools now — if you’re really ambitious, you could sharpen them now as well.

Find a way to hang them up in your garage or shed so they are out of the way. Hardware stores sell a variety of hanging systems, so pick one that is best for you. And don’t hesitate to replace tools — working with a shovel that wiggles when you use it is ridiculous. If you don’t buy new tools, at least add them to your holiday wish list.  

And what about all those plant pots that you’ve accumulated? Some nurseries will take them back, but many of the pots are now recyclable. Check the bottom of the pot for the recycling numbers and clear out the pots that you won’t reuse on your own.

If you garden with power equipment, this is a good time to do maintenance. Either drain the gasoline or make sure you are using fuel stabilizer. Change the oil. Check and, if needed, change the spark plug. If you are going to send it out to a shop to be serviced, it makes more sense to do it five months early than the day before you are going to need it.

Finally, find a good solid box. We have already received a few 2011 gardening catalogs, and as a matter of principal, I don’t read them until after New Year’s Day. But you don’t want them all over the house. So find a box and put the catalogs in the box until you’re ready to read them. Just be sure the box is big and sturdy.  

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

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