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Oct. 18-24: In the garden, it’s time to...

Check those container gardens for bugs before you bring them inside for the winter.

Wash down your plants before you bring them inside.
Wash down your plants before you bring them inside.Read more

Start stashing leaves. Leaves are starting to fall at an alarming rate, and this gold mine of organic carboniferous material is available to you free! I pick mine up on trash day. Knowing that the plastic-bagged leaves go directly to the landfill, I choose those, but only the clear bags — easier to see that there’s no trash inside. These watertight “pillows” have myriad uses: Mine provide excellent insulation for cold frames, the hoop house northern exposure, the fig tree. Keep a supply of dry, lawn mower-shredded leaves to add to the spring compost pile, when there’s no brown stuff available.

Check houseplants for bugs before bringing them inside. Someone called recently to say her pots were full of roly-poly bugs. We decided the best way to deal with them was to slowly submerge the plant in a bucket of water to bring to the surface all the bugs, along with any snakes, mice, and anthills. Scoop or strain everybody off the top and dispose as you see fit.

Go pick apples. Lots of varieties of apples are still available at the U-Picks around Philadelphia; the advantage of going now is that you can also get pumpkins and gourds (and mums) while you’re there to decorate your front steps. And if you go on a weekend, you can probably take in a hayride, see a few ghosts, get your face painted. You might even consider renting some kids to take along, so you fit in a little better.

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ( and winner of the AHS Great American Gardener Jane L. Taylor award.