Visit plant camp. All the houseplants that have been living it up out in the wilds of our yards need to be reined in about now. Start clearing your windowsills and tables so you can bring the larger plants back indoors before you turn on the heat. These need to be cleaned up, possibly pruned back, and scrubbed down with water and mild soap before the migration can begin.
Plant a cover crop in any naked spaces in the vegetable garden. Clover (either red or white) is my personal favorite.
Adjust for climate change. For those of us who have passive greenhouses, those weeks of 90s in summer and 20s in winter have wreaked havoc in recent years on our crops. Here’s what has survived my summers in the hoophouse with limited water and abundant heat: sweet potatoes, basil, more sweet potatoes, rosemary, mint, goji berries, and of course those sweet potatoes. Tomatoes would only grow around the very edges where they could steal rainwater, and it was far too hot for anything bee-pollinated to make fruit. NOTE: Irrigation would help, as would ventilating fans, but hey, it’s passive! The winter cold in my greenhouse promoted mustards that drop seed every year, and a wonderful crop of chickweed that provided greens for smoothies all winter. And, of course, there was the rosemary, which reached 5 feet before I had to hack it back so I could walk down the aisle. Think about implementing better insulation, strategically placed water barrels to hold heat, and the judicious use of a kerosene heater for the worst nights.
Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (phsonline.org) and winner of the AHS Great American Gardener Jane L. Taylor award.