Ready or not, winter is coming, which means it’s time to start thinking about spring.

A bit of work now can help your lawn and garden prosper when warm weather returns.

The first bit of advice from master gardeners is to wait.

Although we've had frost, winter is still a ways off.

Turning compost into your soil or leaves and grass clippings when the soil is 65 degrees or warmer increases the risk of introducing molds and fungus that could hurt your plants later.

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The best time to do any such work is once the soil is below 65 degrees, but before it’s too cold to turn.

However, turning soil and tilling is mostly unnecessary if you take some steps this fall to promote soil health. Here are a few tips from the University of Minnesota Extension Office and from area master gardeners for preparing your yard for winter so that it’s ready to flourish come spring.

1. Leave roots in place

Many gardeners begin to uproot their gardens at the first sign of snow. Instead of pulling plants up, cut them at the base of the soil, said Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, master gardener with the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Olmsted County.

“When you leave all those roots, it adds organic matter to your soil and leaves channels for water and air for healthy soil,” she said.

2. Cut grass to about 1 inch

Before snow covers your lawn, give the grass a tight buzz cut. Cutting the grass to about 1 inch prevents long grass from becoming matted and smothering what was a healthy lawn. That matted grass will be an obstacle for new grass to grow when spring arrives, according to the Extension office. Matted grass can become like a mulch which isn’t something you want on top of healthy grass. It can also trap moisture and lead to mold growth when the soil warms up.

3. Stir compost

After putting the top parts of your garden plants in your compost, give them some time and then turn your compost. The woody, vines and stems can be better broken up with a bit of a stirring. It can be messy, but wet and messy makes for good organic matter for next year’s planting. A good compost should be about 60% brown matter such as leaves, 30% green matter such as old vegetables and fruits, and about 10% organic matter, according to the Extension service. It should also be wet.

“Water is the catalyst for breaking those things down,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s kind of yucky, but now is the time to get those viney things out.”

4. Leave stems

For vegetable gardens, Kirkpatrick recommends cutting plants to the ground and leaving just the roots for the winter. Vegetable plants can carry molds and fungus if you leave them in your garden, she said. Other plants can become beneficial habitats for pollinators over the winter. Leave some stems above the ground, especially if they have hollow stalks, she said.

“Whenever I cut my stems, I check them to see if they’re hollow,” she said.

Hollow stems can also be bundled and left out to make bee houses, she said.

5. Leave leaves

Most leaves can be left on the lawn if you use the mower to mulch them. They will break down and add important organic matter back into your soil.

“I’ll run them over a few times,” Kirkpatrick said.

If you happen to live underneath some large trees and those leaves pile up too thick, Kirkpatrick suggests piling them in your garden. They’ll provide habitat for pollinators and beneficial spiders to weather the winter and add nutrients to the garden as they break down.

Besides, it’s less work than bagging and hauling the leaves away.

“I’m a big fan of leaving things where they fall,” she said.