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Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or jmw442@cornell.edu.

By the time you read this, you have almost certainly done the last lawn mowing for the year and are thinking about moving the lawn mower to the back of the shed and the snowblower to the front.

I intend to put it off for as long as possible, myself. While I am a firm believer in being prepared, I don't like to rush the seasons any faster than they already present themselves.

I'm still mulling over whether I will cut back all my perennials or leave them till spring. There are cases to be made for either option.

Cutting everything down to the ground before winter hits is the tidier option. It allows for removing any diseased plant material and insects that may overwinter in the soil and leaves a clean bed with plenty of room for perennials to pop out of the ground in the spring.

Leaving the stems, stalks and drying plants until spring has its proponents also. Snow accumulating on the dry foliage can be very attractive.

More importantly perhaps is that the plant debris may provide food and shelter for some of the critters that stay home for the winter.

While it is probably not wise to deliberately put out a welcome sign close to your house for some of the mammals that may take up residence, a flower bed away from your home may be just the space for some of the creatures who will be looking for shelter from the cold.

Leaving things natural also has the added bonus of a gardening chore to get you started in the spring when you can't wait to get out there, but when the soil is still too wet to work.

Two years ago, I cut everything to the ground, but last year, I left a lot of it in the beds. The only drawback for me was that with the flooding we had, I had daffodils opening among rotting plant debris in a raised bed that was surrounded by a foot of water, and me with no waders to get to them.

Regardless of what your preferences are, do be sure to cut and remove any diseased foliage.

While you are out there, look for tree branches that are not likely to make it through the winter. You may want to remove them now if there is danger of them falling onto your house, car or walkway during a heavy snowfall or nasty storm.

While many plants winter over very nicely, some are more susceptible to damage from extreme cold, temperature fluctuations, high winds and water loss. I give all my evergreen and deciduous shrubs a good soaking in late fall to slow down winter water loss.

If you would like more information on winter protection for woody plants, we have a great handout we would be happy to provide you with.

Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or jmw442@cornell.edu.

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