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  1. Walk around the garden picking this and that to see how certain colors and textures go together to prepare for next year's plant combinations.

  2. Cycle or drive up and down streets, looking at planting and landscaping ideas you might want to incorporate into your own ideas next year.

  3. Divide spring-flowering perennials, potting up extras to give to friends or neighbours.

  4. IMPORTANT: Get out the dandelion killer and attack the little rosettes of dandelion leaves that form in the fall. Remember: every rosette you don't get now will become an unwanted weed next spring.

  5. Spread grass seed over the whole lawn. Grass loves to grow in the cooler days of fall and it will give your spring yard nice thick lawn.
  6. Where leaves of trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals have been turning a sickly yellow (meaning a lack of iron), mix powdered sulfur into the soil. That will help acidify your soil, although it takes a while for the sulphur to break down. Spreading quick-acting iron chelates on the ground will help, too. My ivies which received this treatment last fall were a rich healthy green this year. Also, my apple tree has never produced such a big crop of huge fruit.

  7. Deeply prepare garden areas where you plan to grow early tomatoes and roses. An area that was dug out three feet deep--with compost at the bottom and fresh soil at the top--some years ago has produced big, healthy tomato plants year after year. Nothing beats deep preparation of the soil.

  8. Look for perennial and shrubbery deals at nurseries and go for them. Many garden centers don't want to hold plants through the winter and you can often buy them for half-price. Perennials will root much better for spring blooms, too!

  9. Spread compost everywhere. It will help condition your soil and make earthworms and nutrient-producing microbes happy.

  10. Plant bulbs, especially the species types. The species types readily adapt to most locations and will produce more and more flowers each year and self-seed as well. Tarda remains my favorite species tulip, I like the cute small species crocus because it blooms so early, and scilla with tiny blue flowers creates big swaths of blue in early spring. Go for it.

  11. In late fall just before freeze up, plant seeds for carrots, radishes, lettuce, swiss chard and spinach. (You'll be amazed at how much earlier you'll be picking crops in the spring.) Also, garlic and onion bulbs. Also most flower seed that prefers being started directly in the garden: amaranthus, alyssum, bells of Ireland, calendula, celosia, bachelor buttons, baby's breath, larkspur, lavatera, nigella, mathiola and rudbeckia.

  12. Should you cut back perennials? I don't. They collect snow and birds eat the seeds. I also go easy on leaves and other clean-up because that's where lady bugs hibernate and I want them around in the spring to munch on aphids.

Most of all, enjoy the wonderful scents and waning warmth of the fall sun. And pat yourself on the back for putting in plants that look their best in the fall: asters, ornamental grasses, fall crocuses (colchicum), ornamental cabbage and kale, chrysanthemums, sedum "Autumn Joy," alyssum, etc. And if you have big gaps in the border--remember to add those fall plants to your list for next year.

Get out and roll around in the leaves, pick up a few bales of straw from a farmer and stretch out on them with a sweet, freshly-dug carrot or slice of juicy melon from your garden. Ah...the rich warm comforting light of autumn...


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