Trees, shrubs, and perennials, especially those newly planted, still need water. The soil is dry and plants are busy producing food to store in the roots, setting buds for spring/summer flowers and fruit, and preparing for winter cold. So keep the hose out and water deeply once or twice weekly. Here's a mind-bending fact from the Natural Resources Conservation Service: For every pound of dry weight plant tissue a plant produces, it must extract 400 to 500 pounds of water from the soil!
Divide Spring- and Summer-Blooming Perennials
Did your iris disappoint with few blooms? Your daylilies flower less than expected? Your dense bee balm become a gray mound of powdery mildew? Overgrown spring- and summer-blooming perennials benefit from division in the fall: hostas, black-eyed Susans, astilbes, Phlox paniculata, lambs' ears, echinacea, and yarrow. Water them a day or two before dividing. Prune them to about 6 inches high for easier dividing and less water loss.
Clean, Disinfect, and Fill Birdfeeders
Whether feeders are empty or full, take time during this cool weather to empty, clean, and disinfect them. This will reduce transmission of Avian diseases and respiratory infection from fungi. In a perfect world, cleaning with liquid soap or detergent and disinfecting bird feeders is a once-a-month task. To disinfect, completely immerse empty, clean feeders in a 10 percent solution -- one part liquid chlorine household bleach to nine parts of tepid water and soak feeders for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow to air dry. A milder option is to soak feeders for 4 hours in 4 cups of white vinegar mixed in a bucket of water.
Use Your Compost
Spread compost over a garden bed, then top with an organic winter mulch such as chopped leaves. By spring, soil organisms will have worked the compost into the soil. Compost acts as a soil conditioner by increasing air spaces and water-holding capacity. It contains nutrients and houses diverse insect and microbe populations. Spread 1 inch on flower beds. For poor soil, incorporate 2 to 3 inches of compost.
Prepare the Berry Bed for Spring Planting
For raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, choose a location with good drainage and lots of sunlight. Raspberries and blackberries prefer alkaline soil with a pH of around 6. Blueberries thrive in acidic soil at a pH of 4.5 to 5. All berries need nutritious, loose soil so add compost, animal manure, and rock phosphate. Planting green manure also is an option. Buckwheat, for example, suppresses weeds and can be cut and tilled into the soil as fertilizer. Come spring, the bed will be rich and ready for berry planting.