In the Pacific Northwest, most of the garden chores are finished by mid-October, because anything that’s not done by then is going to be done in the rain. But during those few days that don’t involve rain, it’s a good opportunity to finish up those end-of-season tasks. Here are some to consider:

Compost bin

Use the compost you made in summer on your beds in fall.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Plant sale

Fall plant sales are wonderful – until you have to plant the things you bought right away.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

  1. General yard cleanup. Pick up those sticks and leaves on the lawn and in the driveway. Continue to rake leaves and put them in the compost pile.
  2. Compost and mulch. If your yard is like mine, the soil needs a lot of improvement. I’ve used all my homemade compost; now I’m purchasing a few bags and enriching the soil where it needs it most. Mulch is also important for protecting plants from harsh winter temperatures.
  3. Planting. In our region, bulbs can be planted until December, and now’s the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. I confess to buying several plants at one of the big fall plant sales this year. Those bargains will fare much better if they are planted right away.
  4. Bringing plants indoors. There are a few annuals and tender plants that I want to save, so I purchased one big pot to hold them in over winter. (One pot makes it easier to water.) I have a cool greenhouse, so I’ll move the container in there for the season.
  5. Cut flowers and herbs for drying before they get zapped by frost. (My dehydrator runs nonstop this time of year, drying basil and catnip.) There are a number of flowers that dry easily, including zinnias and statice. I’ve even dried delphinium successfully without any trouble. Don’t know if your flowers will dry well? Think of it this way: If you’re going to lose blooms to frost anyway, why not see if they’ll dry well? Just cut them and hang them upside down. If it doesn’t work out, all you’ve lost is a few minutes.
  6. Cut leaves, grasses and pods for decorating. While it’s a little early to think about decorating for the big winter holidays, now is a good time to collect grass flowers, fruits and cones. The coming rains will only make collection difficult later, as well as cause all those precious decorating materials to mold.
  7. Clean your gardening tools. This takes only a few minutes. Remove any soil from all shovels and hand tools. (I use old newspapers that I keep in my garden shed for this very purpose.) I also run the lawn mower until there’s no gas left in it.

There are a few other projects you can consider trying, like drying gourds and bringing in nonhardy waterlilies. And now is also a great time to start catching up on your garden reading. So pull out that new book on viburnums. Visit the garden section at Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. Find out everything there is to know about Japanese gardens. Then start planning for spring!