Get ready for winter
Time to prepare your house, car and garden for what's to come
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 06:00 am
Get your jacket out, but leave the blues at home. Winter is coming and early preparations are in order.
Wednesday and Thursday will see the first snowfall of the season, but the weekend promises more warm fall temperatures.
Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said there’s no need to rush with cleaning up the yard before the weekend, but getting ready for colder temperatures is not a bad idea.
“Move the snow shovel out and get the snow tires out, but I would wait until the weekend to get all these things done,” he said.
“Next weekend is nature’s gift to you and will give you a chance to finish those jobs around the house after a first taste of winter weather. It will be a little teaser, a reminder of what’s coming.”
On Saturday and Sunday, temperatures will rise to fifteen and sixteen degrees through the day, with a low of two to four degrees at night. Next week continues with similar temperatures. A cooler weather period begins on Friday Oct. 19, when temperatures drop to a high of seven and eight degrees for the weekend, and a low of zero at night.
“We can say it will be not too hot, and not too cold. We think that’s what the pattern will be in the next month ahead,” he said.
Phillips said a warm water flow, el Nińo, is now moving up the Pacific coastline. He couldn’t say whether it would affect future weather trends, but September was almost three degrees warmer than normal; October to date has had daytime temperatures around 10 degrees, which are close to normal.
Fall is expected to be a little warmer than normal, though rain is now beginning to turn into snow. November should be normal, though Phillips expects a colder winter than last year.
Better predictions of winter temperatures will be available by Dec. 1.
Don’t live under a blanket
With the first snowfall around the corner, service providers are preparing for cold calls of a different sort.
Lindsey Tait, service manager with Always Plumbing & Heating in Edmonton, said many customers calling her office in the winter sit at home and freeze. Last year the company received over 1,400 calls from St. Albert residents for emergency appointments concerning plumbing and heating problems.
Tait said many people notice too late that their furnace is not working and it can take a while for repairs to happen when everyone calls at once. New furnaces require annual maintenance as much as the old ones, often to keep their warranty.
“It’s best to get it done as early as possible. You should have your furnace checked before the cold season and replace the filter every four to six months,” she said.
Tait said people need to replace their furnace filters because they affect air quality. Clogged filters can cause colds and allergic reactions from inhaled bacteria and dust that settle in the pipes through the year.
Another cause for winter headaches is water damage. John Huising, manager of Access Plumbing and Heating in St. Albert, said frozen pipes are among the main reasons customers call him in the winter.
Outside water taps must be disconnected to avoid busted inside pipes and the flooding of basements. People should also bring in their sprinklers and garden hoses as water can freeze within them and cause damage.
“If you have a sump pump you may want to watch that it doesn’t discharge on a sidewalk creating slippery conditions and people could fall and hurt themselves,” he said.
Don’t kill your car
Most garages offer oil changes and winter check-ups at this time of the year. Martin Link is manager of Midas Auto Centre in St. Albert. Link said winter maintenance is essential for getting cars through the winter. This includes checking fluid levels, tire pressure, wipers and block heaters.
Low tire pressure causes tires to wear out and costs more on gas. It can also affect the way a vehicle manoeuvres on the road.
Link added car owners should keep their cooling system and radiators maintained to make sure the car can start and heat once icy temperatures hit at night.
“It can take a lot to freeze the coolant but if it isn’t proper for the temperatures it can crack the block and the engine can get damaged,” he said.
“The coolant has to be rated for minus 45 degrees. It is the part that keeps the liquid in your engine from freezing.”
Prepare your greenery
Not only houses and cars need a winter fix-up. So does the greenery in the gardens. Jim Hole, owner of the Enjoy Centre in St. Albert, said most hobby gardeners can continue their general maintenance program with the exception of using fertilizers.
As trees shed their leaves, trunks begin to thicken, preparing the plant for the cold. Nitrogen used in fertilizers softens the trunk, preparing it for warm weather instead. Without the natural protective cover, trees suffer from the cold and could die.
Hole added that smaller plants and flowers can be covered in mulch, moss or light snow to overwinter the next couple of months.
It is not only the temperatures that affect a plant’s health in the winter. Rabbits, mice and other rodents feed on bark and require extra consideration.
“That involves using tree wraps to protect the trunk, especially of young and precious trees such as apple and plums and apricots. They seem to be very tempting for rodents,” he said.
“You can start at the base and go up a few feet. If you have deep snow, rabbits can get up at higher areas.”
Gardeners can also use sheet metal and homemade cages to protect trees and shrubs against smaller rodents such as porcupines, though they should be buried so rabbits cannot crawl through the soil beneath them.
Hole added that leaves should be composted or discarded as they harbor insects carrying pests and diseases.
Not all creatures need to be scared away. Winter-proof bird feeders are appearing on supermarket shelves and Hole noted a variety of them with creative designs fit for every garden. People should use caution when buying bird feed, though.
“You want to use quality bird seeds so you don’t have insect-infested crops that deteriorate within the container and rot,” he said.
Traditional feeders should be replaced with all-weather feeders as they keep birdseed from getting mouldy and provide for lasting supply.