Your greener gardening to-do list

The little things we do in our gardens now can make a big difference later. Here are some of the most important fall tasks to get you started...

  • Look sharp -- Reel mowers work great just out of the box, but, with use, their blades can become dull, making them less effective -- and a lot less fun to use. Take a little time to clean and sharpen their blades, so you won't be tempted to return to the old gas-powered mower come spring.

  • Shop smarter -- Now's a good time to score deals on close-out terra cotta pots, leftover seeds, and maybe even one of those reel mowers, but click before you shop to find out which businesses get good marks on environmental impact, human rights, and other criteria -- and which ones don't. now offers a free extension for the Firefox Web browser which alerts users when they visit quasi-ethical companies (as well as their brands and subsidiaries) on-line, so you can get the good, the bad, and the ugly on Target, Home Depot, and Walmart, among others.

  • Think like a bird -- Early fall is a fine time to plant new trees and shrubbery, but choose carefully. The usual spirea and juniper bushes are OK, but, because they'll offer area wildlife cover and a profusion of berries in the fall and, sometimes, winter, dogwoods, viburnums, and hollies are better.

  • Get ready -- Since leaving them outside can cause them to crack, bring clay pots, as well as any heavy-duty plastic ones, indoors for fall storage. That way, you'll be able to use -- and reuse -- them longer.

  • Encourage idleness -- Finally, fall doesn't mean you have to stay busy all the time. When it comes to fallen leaves, suggest to your family, friends, and neighbors that they leave their rakes and leaf blowers in storage. Unless the leaves have formed a layer that's several inches thick, they won't likely smother the lawn. But, if you or others insist on picking up at least some of those leaves, dump them in the compost pile or layer them in your garden beds to stave off soil erosion while returning valuable nutrients to the soil.

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