Crisp shades of orange, yellow and red join crisp fall weather to signal the end of outdoor gardening season, but there’s plenty to do before winter. This month we focus on cleaning, protecting and maintaining. Pull on a sweater, grab a rake and be thankful for the past — and hopeful for the future.
1. Advance planning will provide a big holiday payoff: Pot up amaryllis and paperwhites for blooming centerpieces next month.
2. To encourage Christmas cactus blooms for the holidays, expose plants to bright light 10 hours daily and complete darkness (at 55 to 60 degrees) 14 hours nightly.
3. Give the lawn one last — and short — mowing. Just this once, set blades to 1.5 inches.
4. Plant spring bulbs if you haven’t already. Continue planting until the ground is too hard to dig.
5. Remove unwanted garden plants and turn over the soil, then apply mulch to bare spots to prepare the bed for spring planting.
6. Inspect houseplants for spider mites and scale; treat immediately if you spot any.
7. Time to rake! Add leaves to the compost pile.
8. Fill garden holes with soil from spent container plants, then wash pots with a 1:1 water-bleach solution.
9. Harvest winter squash after vines die back — but before a deep frost.
10. Store clay pots indoors to prevent cracking from freezing temperatures.
11. Prune weak, cracked or diseased tree branches to prevent from causing injury or damage during winter storms.
12. Cut asparagus all the way down and cover with 2 inches of well-rotted manure.
13. Clean bird feeders and stock with seed. Don’t forget to provide clean water.
14. Heed my experienced advice: Mice seeking warmth can fit through a pencil-width hole; seal gaps and cracks in foundations, and around windows and doors.
15. Loosely tie arborvitaes and upright junipers with twine to protect against damage from ice and snow.
16. Inspect patio furniture, tree trunks and undersides of branches for gypsy moth egg masses — beige blobs — and pry off with a sharp knife if you spot them. Discard in the trash.
17. Clean the ground under and around roses, fruit trees, lilacs and any plants that were diseased this year; discard debris in trash to prevent reinfection.
18. Keep raking! Consider shredding leaves with a pass of the mower, and apply around plants in place of mulch after several hard frosts.
19. To prevent birdbath water from freezing, consider buying a de-icer.
20. Clear a bed now for planting peas in March.
21. As long as the temperature is above 40 degrees, apply an anti-desiccant to protect broadleaf evergreens, like rhododendrons, from dehydration.
22. Turn over vegetable patch soil to disrupt the life cycle of pests that may be trying to settle in.
23. Keep watering new plantings and transplants until the ground freezes.
24. Dig up and store cannas, caladiums, colocasias, dahlias and gladioli after they’ve been blackened by frost.
25. Drain and store all hoses except one; keep it handy for watering evergreens during winter dry spells without snow cover.
26. Store firewood outdoors to avoid bringing in insects.