“Weather permitting” may be the second most discouraging phrase in gardening, coming in right after “it died.” Though there are people who will don galoshes and slickers and do what they feel needs to be done according to their own warped sense of duty, I’m not one of them. I am a fair weather gardener. This is seldom a problem in spring. Too nasty to go out? Too nasty to plant things anyway. Summer’s easy. If it’s raining, you can’t go out and water, but you don’t need to, and the weeds will wait for you. Fall is another matter. You know those bumper stickers that say, “God is my copilot”? Well, God is my assistant gardener. I figure if He doesn’t mind being relegated to second chair in an airplane, He won’t mind doing grunt labor in my garden in bad weather. This has been a fine fall, and fortunately I have not had to rely on God to get my hybrid tea and florabunda roses through the winter. Frankly, He doesn’t have a great success record. I hope He’s a better copilot than assistant gardener. The first thing I do, weather permitting, is some hacking. This is not the careful pruning of spring. I just want to get rid of long and tangled canes. It has nothing to do with the health or habit of the plant. It’s self defense. I don’t want them attacking me when I am working. Rose diseases, like the dreaded black spot, overwinter on fallen leaves, so I want to get rid of them. On bare ground you can rake them up. A small hand rake, like a child’s rake, makes it easier to get to the stubborn ones that cling to the base of the plant. Let’s say, though, that you are one of those perspicacious readers who have actually taken my advice and mulched. It’s hard to rake leaves out of mulch. But it is not hard to blow them out. Use a blower on low power to move the leaves someplace where you can pick them up. They go in the trash, not the compost pile. Now the base of the plant needs protection from the worst of winter. Many books tell you to dig surrounding soil and mound it over the base. That never made much sense to me. You would have to remove the mulch and you rile the roots. You can get kits for winterizing roses. They consist of a length of plastic mesh that make a low cage around the plant, a flimsy stake, and a couple of twist ties. You fill that with some kind of insulating material, not provided. I have several of these, only because I found some on a junk table at 75 percent off. I’ll buy anything at 75 percent off. You don’t need them. Any scrap of fencing, chicken wire, even four sticks with some plastic. The enclosure should be about a foot high. You can fill it with whatever is handy. Leaves are very handy this time of year. Don’t use leaves that mat down — oak rather than maple. You can drag in soil from another part of the garden, but that is work. Straw, unsifted compost, wood shavings, old pantyhose. No, wait, that’s for tying up tomatoes. I fill mine with the same shredded bark I use for mulch. Perfect. Next spring I unhook my cages and spread the mulch around. Another approach is to plant the newer shrub roses that are reliably hardy without any special care. Get rid of those fussy tea roses. My assistant gardener over time is helping me do that.

“Weather permitting” may be the second most discouraging phrase in gardening, coming in right after “it died.” Though there are people who will don galoshes and slickers and do what they feel needs to be done according to their own warped sense of duty, I’m not one of them. I am a fair weather gardener.

This is seldom a problem in spring. Too nasty to go out? Too nasty to plant things anyway. Summer’s easy. If it’s raining, you can’t go out and water, but you don’t need to, and the weeds will wait for you.

Fall is another matter. You know those bumper stickers that say, “God is my copilot”? Well, God is my assistant gardener. I figure if He doesn’t mind being relegated to second chair in an airplane, He won’t mind doing grunt labor in my garden in bad weather.

This has been a fine fall, and fortunately I have not had to rely on God to get my hybrid tea and florabunda roses through the winter. Frankly, He doesn’t have a great success record. I hope He’s a better copilot than assistant gardener.

The first thing I do, weather permitting, is some hacking. This is not the careful pruning of spring. I just want to get rid of long and tangled canes. It has nothing to do with the health or habit of the plant. It’s self defense. I don’t want them attacking me when I am working.

Rose diseases, like the dreaded black spot, overwinter on fallen leaves, so I want to get rid of them. On bare ground you can rake them up. A small hand rake, like a child’s rake, makes it easier to get to the stubborn ones that cling to the base of the plant.

Let’s say, though, that you are one of those perspicacious readers who have actually taken my advice and mulched. It’s hard to rake leaves out of mulch. But it is not hard to blow them out. Use a blower on low power to move the leaves someplace where you can pick them up. They go in the trash, not the compost pile.

Now the base of the plant needs protection from the worst of winter. Many books tell you to dig surrounding soil and mound it over the base. That never made much sense to me. You would have to remove the mulch and you rile the roots.

You can get kits for winterizing roses. They consist of a length of plastic mesh that make a low cage around the plant, a flimsy stake, and a couple of twist ties. You fill that with some kind of insulating material, not provided. I have several of these, only because I found some on a junk table at 75 percent off. I’ll buy anything at 75 percent off.

You don’t need them. Any scrap of fencing, chicken wire, even four sticks with some plastic. The enclosure should be about a foot high.

You can fill it with whatever is handy. Leaves are very handy this time of year. Don’t use leaves that mat down — oak rather than maple. You can drag in soil from another part of the garden, but that is work. Straw, unsifted compost, wood shavings, old pantyhose. No, wait, that’s for tying up tomatoes.

I fill mine with the same shredded bark I use for mulch. Perfect. Next spring I unhook my cages and spread the mulch around.

Another approach is to plant the newer shrub roses that are reliably hardy without any special care. Get rid of those fussy tea roses. My assistant gardener over time is helping me do that.