Select and Plant Trees for Fall Color
If you are not blessed with beautiful fall color in your home landscape, add trees that will improve the view. For yellow choose black cherry, tulip popular, black locust, redbud, beech, or hickory; for orange select Chinese pastiche, persimmon, or sassafras; for red plant sourwood, Japanese maple, or red maple; for purple look to dogwood; and for a mix of colors on a single tree, add ash, sweet gum, or sugar maple.
Make Leaf Mold
Composting leaves is a laborious process -- they must be chopped, wet down, mixed with greens and high-nitrogen ingredients such as manure, and then turned from time to time. If you have room, consider raking them to an out-of-the-way place and leaving them to rot into leaf mold. Be patient, as the process can take two or even three years, but the result will be worth the wait. Leaf mold is especially good for clay soils, adding nutrients and improving both tilth and drainage.
Take Time to Tidy
Fall cleanup is the first step toward the future health and productivity of your vegetable garden and flower beds. Removing dead annuals and the dried parts of most dormant perennials will reduce pests and diseases, and prevent perennial root dislocation caused by winter winds. (Leave hollow-stemmed perennials untouched until spring as cutting now may cause crown rot.) Also eliminate a plant or two that didn't measure up to expectations, making room for new plants in the coming year.
Sow Seeds of Spring-Blooming Annuals
Find a sunny spot to broadcast seeds of early-blooming annuals such as larkspur and poppies. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, but do not mulch as they require light for germination. Moisten the bed when rain is lacking, then thin the plants for better spacing in early February.
Paperwhites, a narcissus with extremely fragrant white flowers, are easily forced and make excellent decorations for holiday display. Simply fill a container with about two inches of small pebbles, nestle bulbs among the stones, add enough water to wet the round flat area on the bottom of the bulbs, and keep roots wet as the plant grows. Bulbs will bloom about three weeks after green foliage begins to appear. For continuous bloom throughout the season, start a new group of bulbs every two weeks.