Don't Worry About Dropping Needles
Pines, yews, junipers, arborvitae, and other evergreen conifers naturally shed some of their needles in the fall. These make a great mulch not only for the plants from which they fall, but they are also good for mulching acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, rhododendrons, and azaleas. Some conifers are deciduous, meaning they drop all their needles in the fall; these include large and bald cypress.
Use Those Fallen Leaves
All those fallen autumn leaves are a blessing, not a bane. University research has shown that mowing over the leaves -- that is, mulching the leaves into the lawn -- improves the soil without damaging the grass. Also consider adding chopped leaves to the compost pile. If you're wanting a new garden bed next spring, start it now by digging or tilling chopped leaves into the area. Chopping the leaves into little pieces speeds the decomposition process.
Fertilize the Lawn
A late-fall application of the water-soluble fertilizer high in nitrogen promotes good root development and keeps the lawn green longer. If there are bare patches in the lawn, use pieces of sod to fill in as there is not enough time for seeded areas to establish well before cold weather. Water the sod regularly for about three weeks to ensure that it sends roots into the soil.
Protect Newly Planted Trees
Trees that have been planted this year are particularly vulnerable to winter sunscald. Warm, sunny days followed by plunging temperatures can cause bark to split, jeopardizing the tree. Protect the trunks by wrapping with special tree-wrapping tape or white plastic spirals designed for this purpose. Add 4 to 6 inches of an organic mulch, such as hardwood bark or compost, in at least a 3-foot-diameter circle. After applying the mulch, gently pull it a few inches away from the trunk.
Start Bulbs Indoors
The fragrance of paper white narcissus and the large, stunning blossoms of amaryllis make them a "must-have" for holiday decorating. The bulbs are widely available at garden centers, hardware stores, and mail-order garden sources. Paper whites are readily grown in a bowl or vase filled with pebbles, and it is best to add them to the compost pile when finished blooming. Amaryllis grown in good potting soil will reward you year after year with their blooms if they are given a dormant period next fall.