HOME (Indoor plants and activities)
Prepare storage areas for overwintering tender flower bulbs and garden produce.
Thanksgiving (or Christmas) cactus can be forced into bloom for the Thanksgiving holidays. Provide 15 hours of complete darkness each day, for instance, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., for approximately eight weeks. Keep temperature at about 60 to 65F. Temperatures of 55F will cause flower buds to set without dark treatment.
Dig and repot herbs, or take cuttings, for growing indoors over winter.
Store leftover garden seed in a cool, dry place. A sealable jar with a layer of silica gel or powdered milk in the bottom works well.
Bring houseplants moved outside for summer indoors before night temperatures fall below 55F. Gradually decrease light to acclimate the plants and help reduce leaf drop. Check and control insects and diseases before putting these plants near other houseplants.
Poinsettias saved from last year can be reflowered for this year's holiday by providing complete darkness for 15 hours daily from about Oct. 1 until about Dec. 10.
YARD (Lawns, woody ornamentals and fruits)
Fall is a good time to plant many container-grown or balled-and-burlapped nursery stock. Prepare a good-sized hole, plant at the same depth it grew in the nursery and water thoroughly. Mulching will help protect against large fluctuations in soil temperature and moisture. Be sure to stake or guy-wire tall plants to protect them from strong winds. Wrap tree trunks to protect against frost cracks or animal damage.
Do not be alarmed if your evergreens, particularly white pine and arborvitae, drop some older needles. All evergreens shed needles at some time, but not all at once as deciduous plants do.
Harvest apples, pears, grapes, and everbearing strawberries and raspberries. For most fruits, flavor is the best indicator of ripeness, although color change also can be a good indicator. However, pears are best ripened off the tree, and grapes change color long before they are fully flavored, so sample the fruit to be sure.
Remove raspberry canes after they bear fruit.
Clean up fallen fruits, twigs and leaves around apple (including crabapple) and other fruit trees to reduce disease and insect carryover.
To promote the lawn's recovery from summer stress, apply high-nitrogen fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
Reseed bare spots or new lawns using a good-quality seed mixture.
Early fall is a good time to apply broadleaf weed killers. Be sure to follow all label directions, and choose a calm day to prevent spray drift.
GARDEN (Flowers, vegetables and small fruits)
Dig onions and garlic after tops fall over naturally and necks begin to dry.
Plant radishes, green onion sets, lettuce and spinach for fall harvest.
Thin fall crops such as lettuce and carrots that were planted earlier.
Harvest crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons and sweet potatoes before frost, or cover plants with blankets, newspaper, etc., (but not plastic) to protect them from light frost.
Mature green tomatoes can be ripened indoors. Individually wrap fruits in newspaper, or leave them on the vine, pulling the entire plant out of the garden. Store in a cool location -- about 55F to 60F.
Harvest winter squash when mature (skin is tough) with deep, solid color, but before hard frost. Some cultivars will show an orange blush when mature.
Plant, transplant or divide peonies, daylilies, iris and phlox.
Save plants such as coleus, wax begonias, impatiens or fuchsia for indoor growing over winter. Dig plants and cut them back about halfway, or take cuttings of shoot tips, and root them in moist vermiculite, soil mix or perlite.
Watch for garden chrysanthemums to bloom as days grow shorter. Some may have bloomed earlier this summer, which will decrease the number of fall blooms.
Plant spring-flowering bulbs beginning in late September. Planting too early can cause bulbs to sprout top growth before winter. However, allow at least four to six weeks before the ground freezes for good root formation.
Dig tender bulbs, such as cannas, caladiums, tuberous begonias and gladiolus, before frost. Allow to air dry, and store in dry peat moss or vermiculite.
Cut flowers, such as strawflower, statice, baby's breath and celosia, for drying, and hang upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area.