Fall is a good time to start a compost pile. Leaves and yard waste from fall clean up can be composted and turned into a terrific soil amendment next year. For more information about this environmentally friendly practice, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
Annuals and vegetables
Remove dead or spent annuals from the landscape and containers. Pull vegetable plants from the ground after they stop producing. Remove any debris, such as leaves or fruit from the ground.
Trees and shrubs
Hold off pruning shrubs and trees until they go dormant. Heavy pruning now will encourage new growth, which will not have a chance to harden off before cold temperatures hit.
Cut back perennials as they turn brown, yellow or mushy. Cut back as close to the ground as possible. If desired, leave a few standing, such as coneflowers, whose seedheads are a food source for finches in winter. Coneflowers, astilbes and 'Autumn Joy' Sedum also have terrific seedheads that stay upright for winter interest in the garden.
If the perennial beds are overgrown, consider thinning out plants or dividing them for transplanting to new beds or to share with friends or family. Most division and transplanting of spring blooming perennials should be done by the end of September or early October to make sure they have enough time to develop roots and get established before the ground freezes.
When transplanting, cut back the top growth to about four inches for easier handling and to help the plant devote its resources to root development. Dig up the plant, keeping as much of the root ball intact as possible. Using a sharp spade or knife (a bread knife with a serrated blade is perfect for this task) slice through the plant and root ball to divide the perennial into however many pieces you need. The larger the pieces, the fewer years it will take the plant to reach mature size once transplanted. Transplant the pieces in a new place in the garden, give them away or compost them. Plant to the same depth it was growing in its previous spot. Water well. Hold off fertilizing newly transplanted perennials until next spring when you see new growth.