Plant late bloomers
No need to pack in your shovel yet: A number of plants grow strong throughout the fall. For color, opt for pansies, which flourish in nippier temps, or hardy marigolds, asters, and zinnias (a fave for butterflies!). Veggies like arugula and spinach go from seed to salad in about a month. Kale is another nutritious pick to harvest at summer’s end.
Make your mark
Can’t tell oregano from basil? Keep track of which herbs, veggies, and flowers are which with simple plant markers. Use outdoor paint (Decoart.com, $3 for 2 oz) to cover a river rock. (Search your yard or buy them at Jamaligarden.com, $7 for a 5-lb bag.) Then grab a permanent marker or paint pen and doodle a sketch or write the varietal’s name. Nestle the rock in your garden bed. Problem solved!
The craftiest way to sow seeds
Enlist the kids to transform this year’s leftovers into seed balls they can throw in the garden next spring.
In a big bowl, combine three handfuls clay, two handfuls dirt, and one handful seeds.
Slowly add water until you can work the mixture like dough. Roll into 1" balls.
Place on baking tray; let dry. Store in an airtight container until ready to toss.
Now’s the time to plant iris, snowdrop, crocus, hyacinth, tulip, and daffodil bulbs (above, from left) for pretty spring blossoms. To encourage the plants to develop strong root systems, you’ll need to get ‘em in the ground before the first frost. Follow these simple tips:
Select plump, firm bulbs. Steer clear of ones that are crumbly, soft, or moldy, the way garlic looks and feels when it’s gone bad.
Plant in clumps
A single flower looks lonely, so group three to five bulbs together in an area about the width of a dinner plate.
The secret to dramatic blooms: two layers of bulbs. Cover the first with soil, then add the second; cover until the tips just poke through.
Don’t be stingy with the hose—bulbs need a good soaking in order to sprout roots. Then keep the soil moist, not soggy.
Composting organic materials (almost 30 percent of our trash) keeps them out of landfills and produces nutrient-rich soil— perfect for a garden or a window box. Plus, it’s super easy! Start out by nabbing a bin about 3' x 3' x 3' (check your local nursery or hardware store for options). Once it’s in place, get the kids involved by asking them to help collect scraps and turn the bin. They can learn more about the process by visiting Epa.gov/compost. To make the most of your refuse, keep this formula in mind:
1 part green waste + 3 parts brown waste + water = ideal compost
Green waste, such as fruit and veggie peels, grass clippings, coffee grounds, tea bags, and plant cuttings (just make sure the plant is healthy, so pests and fungus don’t spread to your compost) Brown waste, like shredded newspaper, eggshells, cardboard, and twigs
Dairy products, meat, pet waste, fats, grease and oils, plastics, and metals
Photo: Lisa Björner/Folio Images/PlainPicture