Take Advantage of Sales
Nurseries and garden centers often put their trees and shrubs on sale in late summer and fall, so grab up those bargains. This is a good time to plant as the cooler days allow roots to establish well, giving them a jump on next season. After planting, water well and continue to water regularly until the ground freezes. If necessary, stake trees to keep them from being blown about by winter winds.
Buy or Build a Cold Frame
Have vegetables for several more months by choosing from among the wide range of cold frames or similar protective structures that are available from mail-order sources, garden centers, and even discount stores. One of the easiest to use looks like a clear plastic umbrella. Cold frames also can be easily constructed from lumber or even with straw bales and a discarded window.
Dig Cannas and Dahlias
With frost approaching in the next several weeks, begin lifting canna and dahlia tubers. Cut stalks to about 1 inch above the clumps of tubers, gently remove any loose soil, and let the clumps dry. Place in net or paper bags, keeping colors or varieties separate and labeling, then store in a cool, dry place that does not freeze.
Those vast, free-ranging gourd vines will be dying back soon, leaves will wither, and the rinds will harden. Cut each fruit with at least an inch of stem attached, and allow them to cure in a dry, shady area, such as a garage. After several weeks, gently wipe off the surface of the gourds with a damp cloth, then apply paste wax for a natural look. The cured gourds also can be decorated with craft paints or a wood-burning tool.
Divide and Transplant
Many perennials, including daylilies, iris, coneflowers, and hostas, can be dug up and divided now. Be sure to reset them at the same level in the soil and water well. Pot up extras to share with friends. Evergreens also can be moved safely at this time of year. For deciduous shrubs, wait until after the leaves fall but before the ground freezes to transplant.