Watch for the first frost to arrive in most of this region around the middle to the end of the month. In case of sudden cold spells, have floating row cover on hand to protect lettuce and other leafy greens so you can extend your harvest a little longer. This is a good time to plant or transplant trees and shrubs and tuck the last of your spring-flowering bulbs into the ground.
- Blooms of Algerian or winter iris (Iris unguicularis) appear in the fall. Keep weeds pulled around the rhizomes, but be careful. These plants don’t like to have their roots disturbed. Feed with 5-10-10 fertilizer now and again next spring, applying the minimum amount recommended by the manufacturer.
- We hope you’re following our series on stretch gardening, so you dried and preserved some flowers and foliage from your yard to make into holiday gifts and decor. If you didn’t, no worries. You can substitute commercially dried or silk flowers. Look through our projects and start soon to get a jump on the season.
- When the blooms fade on your garden mums, cut the stems to the ground and compost them. Mulch for the winter, and wait until next spring to divide the clumps after new shoots emerge.
- Set aside some time to inspect and maintain your tools. Sharpen mower blades, oil wooden handles, and use up the fuel left in power equipment.
- Take cuttings of annuals and tender perennials such as fuchsias, coleus, angel’s trumpets, geraniums, and begonias. Cut the stems below a pair of leaves, and remove any leaves below that point. Keep the cuttings in a bright window, out of direct sun. After roots form, pot the cuttings in small pots.
- Use trimmings from your evergreens to help protect semi-hardy plants like azaleas. Stick the cut ends of the greenery in the dirt around the plants. Azaleas typically have shallow root systems, so be careful not to chop into them.
- Prepare sprinklers and drip irrigation for the cold weather. Drain the system and sprinkler heads. If needed, use an air compressor to blow out any water standing in the lines.
- When you plant spring-flowering bulbs, work plenty of good compost and some 5-10-10 fertilizer into the soil. Mix the compost and fertilizer into the soil, and don’t just dump it into the holes. Avoid letting the fertilizer touch the bulbs, since it could burn them.
- Continue cleaning up the garden, but leave the green tops of tubers, bulbs, and corms to soak up as much sun as possible for next year’s blooms. Go ahead and cut back the tops of daylilies and other perennials with fibrous roots. Add clean plant debris to the compost pile. Dispose of any plant parts that have signs of pests or disease.
- Force paperwhite bulbs indoors in a shallow pot filled with pea gravel and a little water. Leave the necks of the bulbs ½ “ above the gravel. Keep the pot in a dark room at 40-55 degrees F. until you see about two inches of foliage and a good root system. Then move the pots to a warm, bright location. Most gardeners compost the bulbs when the flowers are finished, because they seldom re-bloom.
- After you harvest your herbs, rinse them under running water and allow them to air dry on cookie sheets or plates. Then hang them in small bundles to continue drying in a well-ventilated spot out of direct sunlight. When the leaves are dry enough to crumble, strip them off the stems and store them in airtight containers for later use.
- Add color to your garden or containers with ornamental kales, pansies, violas, mums, dianthus, and calendulas.
- Sow a green manure over bare spots in the garden to help control weeds and prevent erosion. In spring, till your cover crop under to add nutrients to the soil.
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