Know Your pH
Plants take up nutrients most effectively when the soil has a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Make sure your garden beds are in the right range by taking a soil sample and having it tested through your local Extension Service. If the soil is too acidic, it can be adjusted with the addition of pelletized lime, but lime works slowly. Now is the best time to test and make adjustments, so soil pH can be modified prior to spring planting.
When the deciduous trees and shrubs loose their leaves, it will be easy to see where the garden would benefit from the addition of evergreens. Experts agree that fall is the best time to plant junipers, yews, boxwoods, laurels, and hollies. Winter rains, cool temperatures, and bright sunshine will help the new plants become established before the challenges of the next growing season.
October is the best month to dig and divide large clumps of chives. After replanting smaller divisions, let them die back for a few weeks of winter dormancy. Clip off dead foliage in early spring and you'll soon have tender new shoots and pretty blooms that can be used for cooking and garnishing.
Add Species Tulips
Species tulips do extremely well in the Middle South and will flower each year without being replaced, provided they have excellent drainage in summer. Species tulips are smaller than the hybrids, however, growing only 4 to 12 inches tall. Look for Tulipa tarda, with yellow blooms accented with white tips; Tulipa clusiana, with white and red flowers; or Tulipa greigii, which blooms in a variety of colors.
Overwinter Ornamental Sweet Potatoes
Dig up sweet potato tubers of 'Marguerite', 'Ace of Spades, and other ornamentals and place them in a shaded, sheltered area to dry for several hours. Then, brush off excess soil and layer them in peat moss for storage in a cool, dark location. Check the tubers periodically and discard any that become soft or moldy.