Perennials: Wait until the ground freezes to apply winter mulches. Salt hay, straw or oak leaves are excellent. The mulch will prevent heaving during the alternate freeze/thaw cycle.
Flowers: Save wood ashes from the fireplace or wood stove for soil amendment. Ashes raise the soil pH, making it more alkaline. They can also be added to the compost pile.
Vegetables and fruits: If they haven’t frozen, continue digging parsnips and leeks. Harvest the remainder of Brussels sprouts. Continue cleanup and composting.
Trees and shrubs: Continue clipping and pruning evergreens for holiday decorations. Use good pruning practices, cutting all over the plant to maintain a shapely appearance.
Arrange for winter tree pruning. Arborists have less work in the winter and may give a better price so that they can keep their crews busy, weather permitting.
Lawns: Check for mole tunnels and fill them in with soil before the ground freezes. Some mounds in the lawn are caused by earthworms working in the top few inches of turf. Unfortunately, moles are not killed by winter cold; they only go deeper. A dug-up lawn could also be skunks searching for yellow jacket nests.
Houseplants: Two ideas for holiday decorations: Norfolk Island pine, a tender slow-growing evergreen, makes a handsome indoor plant and can hold delicate Christmas ornaments. Norfolk pines like a cool room, moderate to high humidity and bright but indirect light. For a table centerpiece, assemble a group of plants (in small pots) such as kalanchoe, cyclamen, poinsettias, gloxinias etc. Arrange them in a good-sized waterproof saucer, surrounded by greens, pinecones, ribbons and other accessories. The miniature cyclamen grow better at warmer temperatures than florist types and may last longer in a warm room.
General: The unusually cold weather may have caught us with unfinished chores. Finish up when the weather moderates.