Outside

• Rake fallen leaves. If left on the lawn they can get slippery, form mats and smother the lawn where diseases like snow mold may take hold.

• Hate to rake? Leave the leaves on the lawn to improve the turf and soil life below. But first mow over the leaves several times in different directions (they should be dry). These small pieces of leaf litter add valuable nutrients to your lawn and it won’t lead to thatch build up.

– Certain tree leaves like cottonwood and oak don’t break down easily, so use less for mulch or add to the compost pile.

• Mulch new plantings or tender roses after a couple of hard freezes. Mound them with well-draining compost, or shredded bark.

•Apply a 2-3″ layer of mulch (bark, shredded bark, pine needs or chopped leaves) around trees, shrubs and perennials after the ground freezes. Be sure to keep mulch at least 6 inches away from the stems or trunks of the plants to prevent voles and mice from nesting.

•Any extra leaves not needed in the landscape can be shared or taken to local leaf drops, check with your municipality for dates and locations.

•Turf grass benefits from a final fertilization before going dormant for the season. Nitrogen helps the root system and aids greening up in the spring. Apply when the lawn is still green and moist so there is good absorption. Water a day or two before application if it’s been dry. Bonus for turf roots if aerating first, followed by fertilization.

•Prepare the lawn mower after the final mow. Prevent damage to the carburetor by using up all the gas in the lawn mower. Disconnect the spark plug, clean the underside with a putty knife or wire brush and sharpen the blade before storing for the winter. The oil can be drained and changed now or early next spring.

•Cutting back dead foliage on perennials in the fall or spring is a gardener’s choice. Plants receive additional insulation and protection from our frequent freeze/thaw cycles when foliage is left in place. Any recently planted perennials and shrubs should not be cut back in the fall. Let ornamental grasses provide winter structure in the garden. Birds appreciate finding seeds and hiding in standing foliage.

•Overwinter containerized shrubs like roses in an unheated garage, away from drafts. Water at least once a month; don’t let the soil completely dry out.

•Spring bulbs are still available in garden centers and can be planted until the ground freezes.

•Drain outdoor hoses after use, but keep them close by to winter water the landscape, especially new plantings of bulbs, trees, and roses.

•Blow out automatic sprinkler systems if not done in October.

•Put away garden products and fertilizers. Gather up outdated products and properly dispose of them through your municipality’s hazardous waste program.

•Store garden tools for the season after cleaning. Get a jump on next season by sharpening before stowing.

Trees/Shrubs

•Prepare new planting holes for bareroot plants (mainly small trees or roses) that can be ordered this fall for shipping and planting in late winter to early spring.

•Check wiring, straps and stakes on newly planted trees — make sure they aren’t pinching or girdling the trunk or nearby branches. Supports are only necessary for one to two growing seasons.

•Prevent winter sunscald damage to trunks of young, thin-barked, leafless trees by covering them with tree-wrap. Remove the wrap in April.

•In the fall it is common and normal for the inner most and oldest evergreen needles to turn brown and fall off.

Garden

•Prepare new spring planting areas this fall. Sheet composting or “lasagna gardening” is an easy and no cost way to prepare new beds by using leaves, lawn clippings, spent foliage, cardboard and kitchen scraps. First, remove rocks and debris or mow the grass low in the chosen space. Frame the bed size with cardboard or sheets of newspaper. Then plop on alternating layers of organic matter (browns and greens in the compost world). Time and weather do all the breaking down so next spring you’re ready to plant.

•Adding homemade or commercially bagged compost in the fall is ideal for vegetable beds if the organic matter is low (below 5 percent) or if the planting area is brand new. Do a soil test now to determine the organic matter percentage and test for nutrition or soil quality issues.

•Remove all dead vegetable foliage, and all diseased leaves. After clean-up, put your vegetable garden to bed with a thick layer of organic mulch.

Indoors

•Take photos and jot down notes about the gardening season — what worked, where to improve and project ideas for next year. Include a list of new plants including bulbs.

•Store left over seed packets in a dry place like glass jars or plastic boxes. Some seeds are viable for several years if properly stored.

•Forcing bulbs indoors including tulips, crocus, narcissus, hyacinths and iris requires potting and then storing the planted pots for 10 to 16 weeks in cold storage at 35 to 50 degrees (tricking them like they are growing in the ground outdoors). They can be placed in an unheated garage or shed that won’t freeze, or outside in the ground buried at soil level. After the chilling period bring them inside the house. Plants will bloom in two to three weeks. Look for bulbs that are bred for indoor forcing-listed on the plant tag.

•Start amaryllis bulbs indoors in early November for late December bloom, and stagger planting additional bulbs into the New Year. There are many colors to try, but shop now for the best selection and quality. Use fresh potting soil in 6-inch pots with a third of the bulb showing above the pot rim. Water well and place in a cool area. Hold off on watering until growth appears, then water more frequently and move to a sunny location.

•Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cacti usually bloom anywhere from now through April. Cool temperatures (60 degrees at night) and nine hours of sunlight cue these plants to bloom after six or more weeks. Reduce watering when the flower buds form, then water weekly as the buds swells. Flower color deepens when the plant is allowed to dry out between watering (if it’s too dry the flowers will drop).