Whether you have a bumper crop in your own garden or find them at your local farmers' market, consider freezing cantaloupe, watermelon, and other melons for eating this winter. Peel and cut into 3/4-inch pieces, spread on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper, and freeze. Once frozen, put the pieces in freezer bags or vacuum-sealed bags and keep in the freezer. When ready to use, only thaw partially before serving. Once thoroughly thawed, they become mushy, but when half frozen, these are a real treat. Frozen melon is also great to use in smoothies.
Plant Cover Crops
Using cover crops, or green manure, in vegetable gardens helps to protect the soil from erosion, supplies nutrients, adds organic matter, and suppresses weeds. Fall is a great time to plant a winter cover crop. The best results are obtained with a mixture of cereal grains and legumes, as these combine the soil covering and nitrogen-scavenging abilities of the cereal with the nitrogen-fixing ability of the legumes. For more information, visit http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets//ecogardening/impsoilcov.html, http://gardening.wsu.edu/stewardship/covcrops/cover.htm, and http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/eb1824/eb1824.html.
Take Cuttings or Pot Up Annuals
Many annuals, such as coleus, wax begonias, impatiens, and fuchsias, can be propagated from cuttings for flowers indoors this winter. Although they'll have stronger root systems if rooted in a perlite and vermiculite mixture, they'll also root in water. Another option is to dig up an entire plant, then brush off most of the garden soil before planting in a houseplant potting mix. Basil is an herb that can be grown indoors this way, too. Parsley doesn't dig up well because of its taproot, so check garden centers for small plants to grow indoors this winter.
Store Leftover Seed
Although the shelf life of flower and vegetable seeds varies, you'll have the best chance of keeping seed viable until next year by storing it in a cool, dry place. A simple option is to place the seed packets in a clean, dry, sealable jar with a layer of silica gel or powdered milk in the bottom. Another option is to store the packets in vacuum-sealed bags. Before storing, make a list of the varieties to assist you when it's time to order seed this winter. To check germination, place several seeds in a moistened, folded paper towel.
Buy More Plants
Fall's cooler temperatures and increased moisture means it's a good time to plant trees and shrubs in the garden as they can begin developing root systems that will give them a better survival rate next year. When shopping for plants in the fall, don't settle for container-grown plants that have sat around all summer unless they look healthy and you know the nursery takes good care of their plants. Better nurseries will often bring in fresh plants in the fall. It's especially important to mulch plants well after planting.