Try Different Winter Squash
Explore the different kinds of winter squash to see if there are certain ones you'd like to grow next year. Groceries usually carry the basics, like butternut, acorn, spaghetti, delicata, and sweet dumpling. Check out farmers' markets for some of the more unusual types. Don't overlook the decorative squash. Many of these are edible, too, especially the larger ones, such as the orange-pink Galeuse d'Eysines with its brown warts. To learn more about squash, read The Compleat Squash, by Amy Goldman (Artisan, 2004; $40).
Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs in Order of Bloom
Make it easy on yourself by planting the spring-blooming bulbs in the order that they bloom. The earliest, such as snow crocus, scilla, and chionodoxa, should be planted immediately. Late-blooming tulips, hyacinths, and others can be planted through November. Any time during November is also good for planting garlic; be sure to mulch after planting.
Divide Summer-Blooming Perennials
As long as the ground hasn't frozen, summer-blooming perennials such as coreopsis, echinacea, and gaillardia can be dug, divided, and replanted. Remove top growth to 3 inches and use a sharp knife to divide the rootball. If invasive weeds, such as bindweed, have intertwined among the perennials, soak the rootball in water, then remove all the soil and invasive roots. Replant immediately and mulch well.
Clean the Garden
Some gardeners like to leave faded top growth on perennials as it serves as some winter protection, but cleaning the garden in the fall gives you a headstart on spring. Do leave the ornamental grasses and other plants that provide winter interest. In the vegetable garden, remove all debris. If there were no diseases or insects, this can be composted. Dress up the garden with a layer of compost or hardwood bark mulch. Once the ground has frozen, apply a winter mulch of leaves, straw, or evergreen boughs.
Protect Hardy Vegetables
Extend the harvest of carrots, turnips, kale, cabbage, collards, leeks, and other winter-hardy vegetables by mulching them with straw, frost-protection fabric, or plastic tunnels. An easy way to create tunnels along raised beds is by driving 18-inch lengths of rebar halfway into the ground on each side of the bed, then inserting PVC plumbing pipe over the rebar. Use specially designed clips to attach clear plastic to the pipe.