* Be careful not to remove the outer skins of onions, shallots, and garlic when storing these vegetables for winter. The papery skins protect the bulbs from dehydration.
* Gently push on the stem that attaches cantaloupe to its vine. If the stem comes loose easily, the cantaloupe is ripe. If there is resistance, let it be.
* Harvest pumpkins as soon as they are ready, that is, when the rind is hard and the color is a uniformly deep orange. Pumpkins that are to be stored shouldn’t be exposed to freezing temperatures. Also, for longer storage life, leave the handles attached to the fruit. Pumpkins stored at a temperature of about 55 degrees F and moderate humidity will keep for 2 to 3 months, about long enough to use for Thanksgiving Day pumpkin pie.
* Leave some peppers on plants and allow these to turn red before harvesting. Red peppers have a milder, sweeter taste than green peppers. Of course, when frost threatens, all bets are off; pick them all regardless of color or size.
* On lavender plants, cut back the spent flower stems plus a little more of the leafy stem. I’ve been told by commercial growers of lavender that there is less winter dieback on plants if the spent flower stems are removed in early fall. I’ve been following that advice for several years now and have found it to be true.
* Finish dividing daylilies, irises, and other perennials this weekend. The replanted divisions need some time before soils cool down to re-establish strong root systems in order for the plants to survive the winter.
* Be neat. Begin raking up fallen leaves from trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. Though premature leaf drop may be caused by wilt and stem canker diseases, I have observed various leaf spot diseases. It’s often these infected leaves that have been falling prematurely. Raking up and burying these leaves removes a source of inoculums for possible infection on new growth next spring.
* Get out and enjoy the many sedums that are now in bloom. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is probably the most common of the sedums you’ll see, but there have been many new cultivated varieties introduced in recent years. It’s not too late to buy some container grown sedums for planting in the perennial garden.
* Pick up windfalls and over-ripened fruit that have fallen on the ground. Yellow Jacket and other wasps change their dietary preferences from meat to sweet at this time of year. Sugary food items are very attractive to these stinging critters.