What to do in your garden now to prepare for shorter, cooler days, no matter where you are in the West.

Low Sun and Flowers
Kent Pilcher on Unsplash

Plant

For abundant indoor blooms, try Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), whose birdlike flowers come in orange, pink, violet, and white. 

Grow containers of mint on a sunny windowsill, using fresh sprigs for cooking, as garnishes, and to make tea. Mint is available in many different flavors—look for apple, chocolate, ginger, and pineapple, as well as peppermint and spearmint. 

Sow wildflower seeds in weeded beds for spring blooms. So you can tell wildflowers from weed seedlings later, scatter a few wildflower seeds in a nursery flat for reference. 

Maintain

If houseplants stretch and grow leggy and spindly, they need more light. Gradually move them to a sunnier situation, such as an east- or north-facing window. 

Trap fungus gnats that plague household plants by putting a mixing bowl filled with soapy water below a light left on overnight. Dump out the bowl and the bugs in the morning. 

Check for standing water in the garden. Where you find it, dig drainage channels or convert the area to a rain garden, filling it with moisture lovers like Gunneras, rushes, sedges, and dwarf willows. 

Throw weeds, spent flowers, and vegetable waste into a compost bin at least three feet wide and high. Turn and water the pile occasionally, and you’ll have finished compost by spring. 

Apply liquid fertilizer to winter-blooming houseplants lightly at flowering time, but wait until spring growth begins to feed other kinds. 

Harvest

Make holiday decorations from the garden: citrus and apples spiked with cloves; rose-hip clusters in foliage wreaths; grape and wisteria vines twisted into festive shapes; eucalyptus pods, pinecones, and acorns in magnolia-leaf garlands. 

Protect

If you get freezing temperatures, cover beets, carrots, turnips, and other root crops with a foot of leaves or straw to protect them, extending harvest for a month or more.


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