While the weeks of summer are certainly winding down, there’s still much to be done before we prepare for our sabbatical. So many garden centers will have perennials, trees and shrubs at clearance prices and as the temperatures continue to cool, it will be prime planting time for those bargain beauties. More plants are always a good idea!

This is one of my favorite times of the year to be outdoors. Cooler temperatures, fewer pests and sweet fragrances in the air are just a few of the wonderful things waiting for us in the gardens.

Fall cleanup time is just around the corner, too — but as mentioned in a previous column, it doesn’t have to be such a chore. If we’re considering the birds and other wildlife, fall cleanup can be a breeze. Leave whatever you can for shelter and food during the long winter months and “chop and drop” it in the spring for added organic material and mulch.

There are a few exceptions to this easy fall cleanup option. Invasive or diseased plant materials should be removed from the property — do not put the plant matter in the compost pile, either. It’s best to get it as far away from your gardens and landscapes as possible.

There is also time for another harvest! What about those cool crops? Spinach, radishes, kale and basil (and more) will happily give you a second season if you so desire. Some crops taste even better after the first couple of frosts! You could sow spinach for an early spring crop, or even investigate the possibility of a cover crop to provide nutrients for your soil.

September is also a really good time to draw a diagram of your garden — while things are still easily recognized. If you haven’t been keeping track, there’s still time to create a record of the new additions to your gardens and landscapes this season. (You can even add in the older members of your plant family if your recordkeeping is a bit behind.) Make notes of the locations, colors, varieties — so that next year you don’t mistakenly dig in the wrong place.

Having a diagram or record will also help you as you plan next year’s design while everything is comfortably sleeping under a blanket of snow. It helps to have that visual reminder of the open spaces when planning for those all those lovely spring plants.

Fall gardens beg to be photographed, too. With the workload a bit lighter, we can focus on creating a digital scrapbook of the things we love most about our landscapes.

Every season of the year holds its own special beauty; each moment rewards you with a gift for all your labors. Don’t forget to take a few moments to sit back and enjoy autumn’s splendor as you celebrate a job well done.

Rae Punzel is a Kenosha writer and horticulturalist. She owns Bennu Organics, a horticulture services and consulting business. Contact her at bennuorganics@gmail.com.

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