Get ready for the holidays. Dump out any standing water immediately. Look in buckets, drainage trays, and rain gutters if you can reach them. The last thing you want to invite to an outdoor party is an army of mosquitoes. Tiki torches are a nice touch, and may help to repel insects if you’re directly downwind, but make sure that none are too close to any trees or shrubs because they will damage leaves and branches and could set evergreens on fire. Not what you want to barbecue.
Revisit Plant Camp. Now that things are settling down out there, it’s time to arrange the bunkmates: Group plants with similar needs, and don’t be afraid to move containers around until everyone is happy. Sun lovers together, and cactus away from lush tropicals. Remember that potted plants dry out faster outdoors, and small pots dry out faster than large ones, so grouping them to conserve moisture is always a good idea. I try to put at least one “indicator plant” in each grouping, to shout at me when it needs more attention. I find coleus is best, since it wilts at the drop of humidity, but recovers without major damage when watered.
Mow the weeds. I’m not much into lawn work. You can’t eat it, so it moves to the bottom of the priority list. Judging from the bags and bags of fertilizer and lime and grass seeds in the basement when we moved in, somebody went to a lot of trouble every year to keep a bad lawn going — one that is very acidic, very shady, and very badly drained. But the weeds that have adapted to those situations are doing just fine. So I mow them periodically, and if I squint, they look just fine.
Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (phsonline.org) and a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (www.cobblestonekrautery.com).