HOME (Indoor plants and activities)
Prepare storage areas for overwintering tender flower bulbs and garden produce.
Thanksgiving (or Christmas) cactus can be forced into bloom for the Thanksgiving holidays. Provide 15 hours of complete darkness each day, for instance, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., for approximately eight weeks. Keep temperature at about 60 to 65F. Temperatures of 55F will cause flower buds to set without dark treatment.
Dig up and repot herbs, or take cuttings, for growing indoors over the winter.
Store leftover garden seed in a cool, dry place. A sealed jar with a layer of silica gel or powdered milk in the bottom works well.
Bring houseplants moved outside for summer indoors before night temperatures fall below 55F. Gradually decrease light to acclimate the plants and help reduce leaf drop. Check for and control insects and diseases before putting these plants near other houseplants.
Poinsettias saved from last year can flower again for this year's holiday by keeping them in complete darkness for 15 hours daily from about Oct. 1 until about Dec. 10.
YARD (Lawns, woody ornamentals and fruits)
Fall is usually a good time to plant many container-grown or balled-and-burlapped nursery stock, but if your area is still suffering from drought, it might be best to wait for better conditions. You do not want new plantings to go into winter in drought condition.
If you do have sufficient rainfall or ability to irrigate new plantings, prepare a hole wider than the plant’s rootball, plant at the same depth it grew in the nursery, and water thoroughly. Mulching will help protect against large fluctuations in soil temperature and moisture. Be sure to stake or guy-wire tall plants during their first season to protect them from strong winds.
It is too early to wrap tree trunks to protect against frost cracks or animal damage – wait until late fall.
Many evergreens succumbed to severe drought this year. If the plants are completely brown now, they are not likely to be able to leaf out again. In this case, all needles on the plant will be brown.
All evergreens shed needles at some time, but healthy plants do not shed all at once as deciduous plants do. White pine and arborvitae have particularly dramatic dropping of just their older needles in late summer or early fall. That might happen earlier this year.
Harvest apples, pears, grapes, and everbearing strawberries and raspberries. For most fruits, flavor is the best indicator of ripeness, although color change also can be a good indicator. However, pears are best ripened off the tree, and grapes change color long before they are fully flavored, so sample the fruit to be sure.
Remove raspberry canes after they bear fruit.
Clean up fallen fruits, twigs and leaves around apple (including crabapple) and other fruit trees to reduce disease and insect carryover.
Check Purdue Turf Tips for current recommendations on lawn care. http://purdueturftips.blogspot.com
GARDEN (Vegetables, small fruits and flowers)
Dig up onions and garlic after tops fall over naturally and necks begin to dry.
Plant radishes, green onion sets, lettuce and spinach for fall harvest.
Thin out fall crops such as lettuce and carrots that were planted earlier.
Harvest crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons and sweet potatoes before frost, or cover plants with blankets, newspaper, etc., to protect them from light frost. Do not use plastic.
Mature green tomatoes can be ripened indoors. Individually wrap fruits in newspaper, or leave them on the vine, pulling the entire plant out of the garden. Store in a cool location - about 55F to 60F.
Harvest winter squash when mature (skin is tough) with deep, solid color, but before hard frost. Some cultivars will show an orange blush when mature.
Plant, transplant or divide peonies, daylilies, iris and phlox if you have sufficient rainfall or ability to irrigate. Do not transplant or divide plants under drought stress.
Save plants such as coleus, wax begonias, impatiens or fuchsia for indoor growing over winter. Dig up plants and cut them back about halfway, or take cuttings of shoot tips, and root them in moist vermiculite, soil mix or perlite.
Watch for garden chrysanthemums to bloom as days grow shorter. Some may have bloomed earlier this summer, which will decrease the number of fall blooms.
Plant spring-flowering bulbs beginning in late September. Planting too early can cause bulbs to sprout top growth before winter. However, allow at least four to six weeks before the ground freezes for good root formation.
Dig up tender bulbs, such as cannas, caladiums, tuberous begonias and gladiolus, before frost. Allow them to air dry, and store in dry peat moss or vermiculite.
Cut flowers, such as strawflower, statice, baby's breath and celosia, for drying and hang them upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area.