PLANT YOUR BULBS! Go ahead and just grab a box of daffodils from the grocery store, if you don’t have the bandwidth for more than that. Stick them in the ground and forget about them. You’ll be so grateful in the spring!
After you’ve done the bulbs, proceed with “cut-down season.” Nearly everything that looks tattered can be cut down to basal foliage (if there is any) at this point. Rules of thumb: leave anything that still is photosynthesizing. Leave anything with seeds (echinacea, rudbeckia) for birds, if you want to. Leave anything that has an interesting look for winter, like grasses and dried sedum heads. Otherwise, cut, cut, cut.
“Cut-down season” is also “pull-out season” – i.e., pull out your dead or declining annuals. It’s time.
Empty out your containers, clean them with bleach, and (if they are terra cotta or ceramic) bring them indoors so they won’t crack over the winter.
If you have dahlias, they should be blooming their hearts out right now. Be sure to dig them up before hard frost, though. Store them in boxes in a dry basement or attic, where they won’t freeze. Same for caladiums, cannas and tuberous begonias.
Harvest any remaining vegetables and dig up your vegetable bed. Cover with a layer of compost or leaf mulch, plus (if you can stand how ugly it looks) some sheets of newspaper, weighed down with dirt, to control weeds.
Dispose of any diseased plant debris in the trash, to avoid overwintering the problem.
Divide and replant overcrowded perennials that have finished flowering, such as daylilies, penstemon, yarrow, Shasta daisy, and lamb’s ears.
Feed your lawn a winter fertilizer high in nitrogen (the first number).
Keep the leaves off your lawn because they will smother the grass. You can let the leaves cover your flower beds if you want, but I clean them out because I can’t stand the mess. I usually shred them with the lawnmower, add them to the compost pile, and use them as mulch after a few months.
Once your beds are clean and weed-free, apply a little mulch of compost and leaf mold.
Water your evergreens well before the ground freezes.
If you are feeding migratory birds such as hummingbirds, take your feeder down and clean it out.
By the end of the month, it’s time to start prepping roses for winter. Cut them back to about 18 inches high and remove all leaves. Grafted roses should be protected with a mound of compost at the base. You can also wrap particularly cherished roses in burlap to keep the compost in place and to protect twigs. More details on rose prep in November jobs.