Beware of outriders. Houseplants need to come in now, before the indoor heat comes on and dries out the air. Check each pot for critters large and small.  If possible, pop the whole thing out of the pot and inspect the roots for bugs, snakes, sleeping bumblebees, slugs, slug egg masses (they look like tapioca), even chipmunks. (Don't ask.) Give everything a good wash in the shower or with the kitchen sink sprayer if you can. Be ruthless, and eliminate anything that shows aphids or mealybugs, because they will spread like wildfire in the house. Put up a few shelves so you don't waste the top half of your windows and put the smaller plants up there.

Watch for egg cases. Preying mantises have reached full size — some as large as five inches — have mated, eaten their mates, and made egg masses all over the world. If you see more than two or three in one spot (they look like blobs of foam insulation), it's not a bad idea to spread them out around the garden. Don't be tempted to bring the egg cases indoors, though, or accidentally leave them in your vehicle, as they will hatch out of season and have nothing to eat but each other.

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 while you're there. And a few mums. And if you go on a weekend, you can probably take in a hayride, see a few ghosts, and 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 a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (