Remove Non-Variegated Foliage and Branches
Variegated plants -- with white, yellow, cream, or chartreuse patterns -- can revert to their original green state. For example, clumps of cream- or white-spotted Brunnera 'Variegata' may be overtaken by the original, vigorous green-leafed variety. While doing fall tidying, dig up the green-leafed plants. Remove solid green leaves from plants partially reverting. Clip away all green 'Nora Leigh' phlox stems. Prune off solid, green-leafed covered branches from variegated euonymous, dogwood, and hydrangeas.
Clip Off, Don't Pull Oriental, Asiatic, and Trumpet Lily Stems
Tall, dead, brown/tan lily stalks are easy to spot in the garden. Though it's tempting to pull them out, the bulbs and bulblets will come with the stalk. Carefully clip stems off two or three inches above ground. If you can see the red- or pink-topped bulbs, they are are too near the soil surface. Dig them up. Carefully pull off small, daughter bulblets to plant elsewhere. Dig a deeper hole that's three times the height of the mother bulb and replant it. Sprinkle slow-release, mineral fertilizer on the soil; it will kick in next spring.
Sow Leafy Greens in Windowboxes to Bring Indoors
Empty and sterilize window boxes with 10% chlorine bleach. Fill with 90% soilless mix and 10% compost or humus. Use soilless mix for the top two inches. Leafy greens you can grow indoors in a sunny spot include bok choy, mache, mustard greens, mizuna, arugula, spring mix, spinach, Swiss chard, and nasturtium. (Wash the window to let in more light.) Sprinkle seeds, then cover with soilless mix. Small plants are fine too if you can find them.
Remove Frost-Bitten Annuals and Cut Back Spent Perennials
To my surprise, an early frost wilted the chartreuse sweet potato vines spilling from otherwise attractive streetside containers. To keep the planters pretty for as long as possible, I only removed the droopy, brown vines and sparse mini-petunias. The remaining ornamental grasses and lantana still look good. I carefully clipped off dead echinacea flowers, spent phlox clusters, and cleome tops in hopes that any remaining buds might bloom.
Remove Dead Veggie Vines
Pull out dead cucumber, squash, gourd, melon, and bean vines. As those vegetables are susceptible to borer, aphids, and beetles, check leaves and stems carefully for pests before tossing on the compost pile.