1) Remove Anything going to seed or at least their seedheads – that you don’t want more of – this includes intentional plants like Cosmos & Borage or accidentally-forgot-to-remove-invasive-weeds like Dandelions or Burdock. Seeds can remain dormant for many years and removing them now saves a lot of future work.
2) Remove Plants that didn’t perform well – are simply filling space or that you don’t love anymore (variegated Hostas I’m looking at you!) These plants can fulfill a circle of life/ be renewed as compost or gifted to a garden friend who is willing- gardening season is too short to put up with plants that don’t perform some sort of ecological benefit to insects, birds or your soil – bonus is that empty spot will be ready for bulbs in a month and ready for whatever catches your fancy next spring – having a little space freed up is a very good thing.
3) Amending soil with leaves, leaf mulch, garden compost, bagged manure or whatever you have around or can get once leaves start to fall (I have carted off my neighbours leaf bags to dump onto beds that could use improvement) This not only has the wondrous benefit of breaking down over the coming frosts, snow and thaws into better soil but it provides better drought protection through your soil by acting as a bit of a sponge – excellent for sandy or clay soils…all soils really
4) Continuing on from this idea of drought proofing your soil – it’s a fabulous time to mulch all your beds – it will look tidier over the coming months, and it will enrich the soil – the type pf mulch I’m talking here isn’t coloured wood chips – ideally it’s arborists shreddings or in a smaller garden – bagged cedar or pine mulch – undyed and natural.
5) Tomatoes are still growing and producing up until the frosts but now’s the time to tidy and cut back that craziness instead of ignoring it and allowing the seeds to drop where they may and have a gazillion tomato plants next spring -gather some seeds to preserve for next year (although they are unlikely to stay true due to cross pollination)
6) Gather seeds – whatever you grew and loved this year you’ll want to try growing from seed next year – annuals like Marigolds and Nasturtiums, Sunflowers or Nicotiana as well as native plants. Asters and Goldenrods are coming into their glory now and if you don’t have varieties of these lovely natives in your yard – consider gently collecting from an area that’s under development, a parking lot (I’ve done this and it was fulfilling to know I would be providing a nice home to propagate plants that would be likely to get mowed down) or ordering seed online and winter sowing (the Halton Master Gardeners page has good info on native plant nurseries as well as how to ‘Winter sow’)
7) If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to get into more gardening at this time of year – there are gentler tasks – use copper tags to write down plant names so you don’t dig them up next spring or define empty areas with string or sticks or photos so you know where you can plant next year. Buy up some of those really on sale plants and leave them in the pots but grouped together in a sheltered spot and see what makes it that you have the energy to plant next spring. Write down your garden wishes, successes, failures and ambitions for next year while you remember – or if you don’t yet have a garden diary – start one!