HOME (Indoor plants and activities)
As houseplant growth slows, apply less fertilizer and water.
If plants are dropping many leaves, move them closer to sunny exposures, such as west- and south-facing windows. Artificial lights may be needed to supplement particularly dark rooms.
Pot spring-flowering bulbs with tips exposed to force into bloom indoors. Moisten soil and refrigerate 10 to 13 weeks. Transfer to a cool, sunny location, and allow an additional three to four weeks for blooming.
Continue dark treatment for poinsettias by keeping them in complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily until early December or until red bracts begin to show.
YARD (Lawns, woody ornamentals and fruits)
Prevent rabbit and rodent feeding damage by erecting physical barriers, such as metal mesh (one-quarter-inch) hardware cloth. Pull mulch a few inches away from the trunk, as the mulch provides a warm winter home for rodents. Chemical repellents also are available, but their effectiveness is temporary and not foolproof.
Prevent frost cracking (or sunscald) by wrapping trunks with commercial tree wrap or painting the south- and southwest-facing sides of the trunk with white latex outdoor paint. Young, thin-barked trees, such as maples and many fruit trees, are especially susceptible. Be sure to remove the tree wrap by early spring to prevent overheating of the bark.
Remove dead, diseased or damaged branches.
Protect the graft union on rose bushes by mounding soil around the plants and adding mulch on top. Wait until several killing frosts have occurred so plants will be dormant when covered. Plants covered too early may be smothered.
If you are planning to order a "live" Christmas tree, prepare its planting hole before the soil freezes. Mulch the area heavily to prevent freezing, or dig the hole and put fill in a protected, nonfreezing area, such as a garage or basement.
Clean up and discard fallen leaves and fruits around fruit plants to reduce disease carryover.
Continue mowing lawn as needed. As tree leaves fall, run them through your mower (remove bagger), allowing the shredded leaves to remain on the lawn. Be sure to mow only when grass and leaves are dry.
Late fall fertilizing can help keep lawns green into winter and boost early spring recovery. Apply 1-1.5 pounds actual nitrogen, in a water-soluble form, per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
GARDEN (Flowers, vegetables and small fruits)
If frost hasn't taken your garden yet, continue harvesting.
Harvest mature, green tomatoes before frost and ripen indoors in the dark. Store at 55-70 F; the warmer the temperatures, the faster they ripen.
Harvest root crops and store in a cold (32 F), humid location. Use perforated plastic bags as an easy way to increase humidity.
Remove plant debris, both crop and weed, from the garden and discard or compost. This will help reduce the carryover of diseases, insects and weeds to next year's garden.
Fall tilling, except in erosion-prone areas, helps improve soil structure and usually leads to soils warming and drying faster in the spring, thus allowing crops to be planted earlier.
Apply mulch to strawberries to prevent winter injury or death to their crowns. Wait until temperatures have hit 20 F to be sure plants are dormant. If mulch is applied too soon, the plant's crown can rot.
Dig and store tender flowering bulbs and keep in a protected location.
Complete planting of spring-flowering bulbs.