Low light; casting shadows across country fields and city gardens. My plants here at Casa Wallula are starting to fade; becoming dry, almost transparent. Seed pods forming. I now hear crickets at night, heralding in the cooler weather.
There is work to be done to prepare for Winter, and now is a good time to think about the tasks ahead.
Fertilizing can stop if you are doing it (I usually stop in early August) preparing plants for the Big Sleep. Any new growth that is produced now will be succeptable to frost damage.
There are the larger projects, like aerating the lawn, mulching the beds. Perhaps there are some perennials that you are wanting to dig and divide, spreading beauty to other areas of the property. Or, perhaps you have a shrub that you would like to relocate; make some shovel-cuts around the root ball, preparing it for a move a little later in the season. If so, a good time to plan this work.
Most perennials can be trimmed back to ground level this time of year, with the exception of things like Hardy Fuschia, salvias...whom will succumb to Winter's cold if you do (just tidy them up at the tips now..leave pruning them until Spring). Are there seed pods on different plants (like Crocosmia pods) that will look great indoors in a vase? Keep some as you clean the beds.
Herbacious Peony foliage will begin to turn yellow, and when they do, trim them almost to the ground and mulch with compost. Store your stakes and support rings for next year (a good time to mark your calendar for getting them out again at the right time in March/April....easy to forget).
Hops. If you have a good place for planting a Hops Vine, do so! Full sun and a T-A-L-L wall will accommodate! They should be producing Hops Cones now. I harvest the vine and make Fall-time wreaths showing off the fat, plucky cones. Natural and beautiful.
A rather good time to prune and thin the Weeping Maple if you have one. Removing branches holding leaves now will reduce the amount of "life force" that is stored in the ground, resulting in less crazy growth in the Spring. Snap away any dead branches/twigs. Look at the branches with forethought, imaginging how they will grow and plan accordingly. Keep the branches with interesting twists, ones that won't intersect with others. Always cut to a crotch or branch union, never mid-way. Notice and appreciate the way the branching splits, creating a web of lace. Please don't be in a rush and "bowl-cut" your weeping maple! Instead, respect the irregular qualities of layering the tips, cutting only at a branch union to raise the branches off of the ground. You will love the results!
Also a good time to plant Spring crocus and SnowDrops benath your weeping maple for a display in the early season of next year. The color beneath the bare branches will make you swoon!
Fall is a great time to apply lime products to the lawn. Lawn grass appreciates soil that is a little more alkaline...not excessive in acidicity. In the PNW, our soil leans toward the acidic end of the spectrum. Applying lime pellets can be done with a garden spreader, and the ground will accept it slowly over the course of the Winter (rains will wash it in). Lime absorption is a slow process; what a great time to allow it to work while the weather is cool and not alot of growing is happening.
Aerating is a helpful task; an aerator pulls clay-like plugs out every so often across the lawn surface. Heavy work but gets the soil additives down below ground level for a swifter start on the improving goodness process. If you are so inclined, raking a very thin layer of a good fine-ground compost (1/4 inch deep only) will keep the earthworms fed and busy. You will be improving the soil biota as well, making a more rich and supportive soil (naturally) for the lawn grass in the upcoming growing season.
Now is a good time to thin the raspberries and clean them up for Winter. Remove all of the dead canes from 2020 at ground level. Notice that there are many new fresh green shoots that have grown and are preparing for fruit production in 2021. Be a bit ruthless (neccessary) and thin these new canes out so that you have only about 3 - 5 canes per running foot of bed. I know. Seems wasteful; however absolutely neccessary. Otherwise, your foliage will completely overpower the rows and hide the fruit! Trust me, I learned this the hard way.
Soon, if you have cleared some room in your vegetable beds, you will be able to plant fresh Winter crops. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach, Radishes, Beets, Carrots, Onions to name a few. Leave your Arugula and Kale; if you have been caring for them all Summer, they will still provide through the Fall and into the Winter. Sprinkle some seed now, or when the weather cools down a bit, plant starts. Tomatoes and Basil....harvest harvest harvest! Potatoes will be ready to unearth, beets ready to be pulled. Preserve your basil by making Pesto, can tomatoes, make confit.
And, don't forget sweater season is really right around the corner. Get your sweaters out and ready for use. Places some lavendar sachets (from your garden no doubt) in the folds for fragrance. Boots out, check! Nice wool socks (without holes), check! Some good reading material...check!
Appreciate the end of this growing season and be ready to embrace the death and rest of the garden and of all living things.
Karlata the Gardener