There are a lot of ways to tell that winter is right around the corner including forecasts from local meteorologists.  Or, you can take your cue from the ominous, often spoken warning from “Game of Thrones”.  

“Winter is coming.”

And Damian Fitzpatrick is more aware of that than most.

“I’m a home improvement contractor.  And this winter I’ve been doing a lot of winterizing of homes—preparing them for winter." Fitzpatrick is from England, but by way of Arkansas.

I moved up to Cambridge two years ago and saw that the market was full of builders and contractors but there weren’t many people doing the small jobs, and there seemed to be a great need.  And it’s proven to be the case.”

Fitzpatrick specializes in winterizing houses.  And so I’ve asked him to walk with me through mine to look at the little things I might do to ready it for winter. The first thing we look at are doors. 

There’s two doors in this case. You have an inner door and an outer door and you can feel around the edges of the door to feel if there is air escaping or actually coming in.”

In case it’s not clear, Fitzpatrick is a pretty thorough guy. But his point is, basically, that if you see light anywhere around the door, air’s coming through too. And that’s going to cost you. So he suggest that you buy a sweep.

“It can either be like a brush or a solid piece of rubber strip that screws to the base of door that will stop the air from coming in.” 

Fitzpatrick also suggest four other must dos to prepare your home for storms, cold temperatures and unforgiving winds:  

“First, check that all windows are properly secured. Locked.” 

And if air is coming through there:

“You need to then seal those gaps", he says.

And there are several ways of doing this.

“Put plastic on the inside to reseal, if you don’t want to go through the expense of having storm windows put on the outside.” 

The second thing Fitzpatrick suggests—if you live on a first floor as I do—is to insulate the basement ceiling, so that cold air doesn’t seep into the living space.   

“That can be covered with plastic or sheet rock.  But the cheaper way of doing it is just to staple the insulation up between the joyce and then seal it with a sheet of plastic.” 

Three.  How do you prepare for snow that often pile up on roofs and in gutters, which in turn cause ice damns?  You either wait for the storm to get here says Fitzpatrick or…

“…you can also install heat cables in the gutters and downpipes and on the edges of roofs.” 

Which can be operated manually or with a control unit that will turn off and on only when there is snow on the roof. 

Four, says Fitzpatrick, make sure you turn off the outside water spigot. But some valves are not easily accessible.  In that case says Fitzpatrick:

“There are various products you can get that clip over the outside spigot to cause the water in the spigot from freezing and causing a problem.” 

Then Fitzpatrick notices through the window that my gutters are blocked with leaves.  That’s a no, no he says before heading outside.    

And what about the outside? 

“Well first you make sure the plants are cut back.”   

Gladston Mclean is a garden specialist for Mahoney’s in Brighton.  He grew up around gardens.

I actually grew up on a farm back in the highlands in Jamaica, and it’s always good to know you’re working with nature.”

Some of Mclean’s long time customers regard him as sort of a latter day Chauncey Gardiner with brains; the accidental philosopher, whose advice on gardening was interpreted as allegories about human survival itself:

“Gardening is actually life, because you see plants growing so naturally.  Nice fragrance in the Springtime and you watch plants blooming, and it can fulfill the human soul.”

So what do you do to guarantee that the human soul is fulfilled in the Spring; What needs to be done before winter comes into sharp relief; before snow covers the ground?  Mclean explained: 

“Well, the dry cold unprotected plants you want to protect with shredded mulch like for wooded perennials, stuff like dogwoods or hibiscus.”

Another popular plant that sometimes comes back smaller after winter than it was the year before —at least mine do—is the hosta.  Mclean’s advice?

"Whatever you can do to encourage that plants be protected at the top, like some compost. And make sure that it get like a good soak of water, because sometimes plants are under trees and the bigger trees are using up most of the nutrients.  But hostas are normally pretty resilient."

So that’s a good plan for my hostas. For rhododendrons or azaleas, Gladston suggests:

“For broader leaf stuff, you want to make sure that it get enough hydration, and if it’s warm, like today, you wanna make sure your stuff with shallow roots stuff, you go out and water them.”

And there you have it.  Advice from gardener, Gladston McLean, and Damian Fitzpatrick, a home improvement specialist; Immigrants to the United States, who are preparing for the inclement weather that has yet to come.  But you can be sure winter is coming.