As your annual plants die, remove them and place them in your compost pile or your yard waste bin. Your perennials may need a little tidying up, too — it’s a good time to dead-head (remove spent blossoms) and trim off any errant growth, excluding tender plants, like citrus. It is vital to clean up fallen fruit and remove all mummies (dried-up fruit) from trees.
Removing leaves and other debris from your roof gutter system will ensure that water drains away from your roof and your home’s foundation. Standing water can cause a lot of expensive damage.
Caring for your tools is another important end-of-season chore. If you do nothing else, please, put away your garden tools. They tend to be the most neglected tools of any kind in our homes. Removing dirt and rust and then oiling the exposed metal parts will greatly extend their useful lives.
This is also a great time to sharpen your tools. This can be accomplished with sandpaper and files. A properly sharpened tool will greatly lessen your frustration when using it.
If you use pots in your outdoor garden, it is important to take a few steps to prepare them for when they’ll be used next. Empty them of any soil or debris. Cracked clay pots can be broken up and used in many ways — as tiles in mosaics, as plant markers or as barriers to help slow erosion in small areas.
This time of year is a great time to think about preparing the soil for your spring and summer garden. You can plant a cover crop, such as vetch or field peas, to help fix nitrogen in the soil, add compost or fertilizer (or both), or adjust the pH.
Fall is also the time to plant bare-root trees. Talk to a local, trusted nursery or go online to the University of California, Davis, plant selection guide and enter in your criteria. The site is at http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant_search.aspx#.
• UC-certified master gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112. Questions about this column can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.