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For the Midwest fall got thrown to the compost pile and winter walked right in. You may need a few ideas for protecting your garden since it came so quickly.

If you had already put on protective tree wraps, check them to see that they haven't come loose, and check the perennial beds for frost heaving. You can add wood chips or straw that will help protect the shallow roots.

With a heavy wet snow you will want to swipe it off of ornamental trees and bushes so you don't end up with limb and branch damage.

Try to keep that compost pile as active as possible. Turn it from time to time. Try to keep it moist -- not soaked, just a light moisture to it so you can feel the dampness. Unfinished compost generates its own heat (up to 160 degrees) as soil bacteria break down organic matter. Your compost pile can protect bulbs and perennial plants from frost.

Things spoil in the snow and when they get all soaked. If you have squash and pumpkins check them out to make sure they aren't starting to mold. Potatoes will start to shrivel up and become soft. Toss them -- you can't get much use out of them.

You may have been adding fertilizer before we got bopped with this winter storm and left things open. Go around the yard and the garage to make sure nothing is opened like fertilizer or insecticides. Also check rooting hormones for leaks, crystallization or spoilage.

In colder areas, you can extend the growing season with greenhouses, cloches (a transparent plant cover used outdoors especially for protection against cold) or a cold frame. A cold frame is wonderful -- it is a simple structure that utilizes solar energy and insulation to create a microclimate within your garden.

If you have ever eaten a salad of fresh greens that were housed in a cold frame in February or have flowers blooming well past frost, you know the attraction of using cold frames. Mobile planters work too -- they allow you to move plants indoors on especially cold days.

Planting season is over for now but you do have the luxury of thinking what you would like to grow as things thaw out in the spring.

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