Use the last of autumn's warmer days to take action for your garden's future.
Prepare new planting beds. You can easily start a new bed by layering materials over existing grass. Use a layer of cardboard or wet newspaper (three sheets thick) directly on top of grass, then layer on chopped leaves, compost, straw, shredded bark mulch, etc. Make each layer 4 to 6 inches thick. In spring, you'll discover rich composted matter ideal for planting.
Dress pots for winter interest. Stuff a plastic or otherwise crack-resistant container with eye-catching branches for a winter display. Clip evergreen boughs and berried branches, sticking them into soil. Add dried hydrangea blooms, ornamental grass seed heads, or canes with rose hips. Tuck in pinecones or hedge apples (osage orange) to finish the look.
Refresh mulch on planting beds. Mulch helps moderate soil temperatures, preventing extreme swings, which can create frost heave. When soil experiences freezes and thaws, it can actually push plantings out of soil. Plants typically prone to heaving are Heuchera, iris, and shallowly-planted small bulbs.
For most planting beds, 3- to 4-inch-thick mulch provides sufficient soil insulation. Apply a thinner layer (2 inches max) in areas where you expect self-sowing annuals and perennials to sprout in spring.
Continued on page 4: Welcome -- or Prevent -- Wildlife