Search and Destroy
Pull up bygone plantings of beans, squash, melons, and other crops that have been harvested or are past their prime. If the plant material was diseased or infested with pests, destroy it rather than adding it to the compost pile. Removal of crop residues is an important aspect of prevention as it removes places where pests and diseases can overwinter. After clearing the area, either replant with fall crops, mulch with compost, or plant a cover crop.
Rejuvenate with Fall Flowers
Planting chrysanthemums is a great way to add color to flower beds and empty spaces in the landscape. Although most mums sold as blooming plants are not reliably hardy, the boost of color is a great way to end the season on a high note. Add some to fading container plantings, too. Although mums are the mainstay of autumn, don't overlook the possibility of adding other fall-blooming plants, such as asters, ornamental kale, pansies, Japanese anemone, turtlehead, sedum, goldenrod, and boltonia.
Evaluate Your Garden
Avoid the spring rush and take time now to analyze your yard and decide what works and what doesn't. Remove plants that are unhealthy or unsatisfying. There's no point in tending to something that is second rate. Early to mid fall is an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs as it gives the plants plenty of time to become established before winter and gives them a head start on next year. Be sure to water them well and mulch. Although clearance sales are tempting, be sure the plants are growing well and have been well tended.
Getting Wisteria to Bloom
Although gardeners should be growing native wisterias rather than the Asian species, the practice will, no doubt, continue. If you have a vigorously growing wisteria that fails to bloom, try root pruning. Using a long-bladed spade, cut into the soil in a ring around the plant about 3 feet from the main stem. Remove any weeds or grass within this ring and feed with superphosphate according to package directions. Prune the plant hard next February or March.
Tending the Fall Lawn
Cooler weather means faster lawn growth, so be sure to mow at least once a week, setting the mower at 3 inches. Use a mulching attachment to return fine pieces of grass (which acts as a high-nitrogen fertilizer) back to the lawn. A fall application of a slow-release fertilizer is also in order now. Poorly managed lawns (cut too short, overwatered, and overfertilized) can benefit from dethatching and aeration.