1. Hang on to your free Organic Matter. Rake the leaves, but don’t put them out for city collection. Dead leaves are a gold mine to help make better soil in your garden. Bag leaves into black plastic bags with a few holes punched in the sides, add a bit of water and manure or compost and let the bag sit in a corner of your garden to rot. Eventually you’ll have beautiful black leaf mulch, for free.
2. Water, water, water. Make sure your trees and shrubs, especially evergreens go into the freezing time well watered. You can put your hose on a trickle and let it run for a an hour or so to really drench the soil underneath.
3. Future Blooms. Make sure you plant a few bulbs, even one small bag of bulbs – grape hyacinths for example – will be a nice surprise for you next spring. Use small rocks to cover the area where you’ve just planted, to stop squirrels from digging them up. Disguising the freshly dug soil with leaves also helps. Fall is the squirrels’ most active time and they do need to be foiled.
4. Bring plants inside. You may have found a particularly nice geranium this year, a fuschia, or a passionflower. These are annuals in our climate, but you can overwinter them indoors and enjoy them again next year. Cut them back by about a third, and find space for them indoors, in the brightest spot you have, south or west facing windowsills are good. Or perhaps you have a room, like a basement, with a flourescent light fixture. These work extremely well at keeping plants happy over the winter. You don’t need special bulbs, cool white flourescents are fine.
5. Clean Up. You don’t have to be a maniac cleaner, but a few things are useful to do. For example you can be lazy here: Don’t cut back perennials to the ground. The stalks help to keep snow cover on the garden, which is a good insulator. Plus birds may enjoy the seed heads of plants like coneflowers.
If you have roses, collect the fallen leaves underneath, and discard them, to avoid carrying over diseases like black spot.
Take soil out of clay pots and turn upside down, or frozen wet soil will expand, cracking them. Dump out any collected water in fragile containers for the same reason.
Finally, uncoil that hose and get the residual water out of it. Do it before it freezes! It helps to have some one help you with this. Then coil it up and put it away.