Pick up the garden tools, wrap up the hose and get some rest while dreaming of spring.

Winter, contrary to popular belief, is an important time for the garden.  Everything needs rest, including plants and avid gardeners.  Winter is the time for maintenance and putting the garden and gardener to bed.
Winter doesn't start with the first killing frost.  After that occurs, it is time to begin prepping the garden for the rest of the season.  First you will need to clean up.  You are going to need to cut back perennials.  Leave some foliage for the birds and winter interest.  
Clean out your vegetable garden by discarding dead foliage.  Again, it was diseased, throw the foliage in the trash rather than in your compost bin.  Either way, it is important to rid the garden of dead foliage.  
Did you know mulch protects your garden during the winter?  This will keep the soil temperature consistent and prevent freezing and thawing that leads to heaving.  Be sure to keep the mulch 1 inch away from the crown of the plants to prevent rot and rodent damage.  
Remove the soil from your container gardens and store the pots in the garage.  For planted pots that stay outside, remove the saucers so the pots won't stand in water.  Cover pots with old blankets in the fall when extended periods of freezing are expected and remove the blanket during the day to prevent plants from overheating.
Be sure to wrap newly planted tree trunks to prevent sunscald.
Finally, reduce watering of all plants because during their periods of dormancy, they don't need as much.  Water evergreens through fall to ensure that they are well hydrated before winter sets in.  
You will need to put away your equipment. lawn irrigation systems usually have shallow lines. Hoses and shallow irrigation lines may be damaged of the winter if water is not drained.  
Though some lines may be self-draining, check to see that there are no manual drains.  If manual drains are present, they should be opened.  Be sure to map them so that they can be closed next spring before the system is pressurized.  If there is a main shut-off valve for the system, close it and then run through the zones to make sure any pressure has a chance to bleed off.  
Don't forget the hose.  Winter conditions will damage it if it is left out in the elements.   Drain hoses by stretching them out and coiling them for storage.  Water will drain as you pull the hose toward you for coiling . Store in a protected place. You can create a hose holder by hanging an old wire basket on the wall in the garage and wrapping your hose around it.  UV light can make hoses brittle over time.  
The lawn mower is one of the more expensive garden investments.  It is especially important to keep it well maintained.  Before you put away your mower, drain the gasoline and take it to the shop for any repairs needed.
  Have the blade sharpened and balanced while you are it.  
    Hoes, shovels and other common garden tools often have wooden handles that can deteriorate over time.  Storing tools in a protected location can slow that process, but normal use will still expose the tools to the elements.  The end of the season is a good time to clean up and protect the handles so that they will last for years.  Weathering can raise the grain of the wood, resulting in splinters.
     A light sanding can smooth the handle.  Follow that with a light application of wood preservative, linseed oil or polyurethane to protect the wood.  Wipe off any excess after a few minutes as oil-based products can attract dirt.  Cleaning any dirt off metal parts and coating with a light application of oil can prevent rust.  Good tools are expensive.  A few minutes of care after the season is over can help preserve them for many years to come.  
    These are simple steps to winterize your garden that will set you up for a successful spring growing season.