Give the garden a good haircut - Start with the messiest looking plants: perennials and annuals with dry, blackened stems and leaves, and perennials that are overgrown. If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of tackling a big garden cleanup, deal with one plant at a time to make the job more manageable. Deadhead any annuals in the garden, remove any discoloured or dry leaves. If the plants are beyond repair, pull them up and discard them. You can fill any empty spaces with fall blooming mums or ornamental kale.
Feed your plants - Repeat bloomers such as certain daylilies, echinacea, and catmint will appreciate a long drink of water laced with water-soluble fertilizer. Continue feeding annuals such as geraniums, salvia, snapdragons, marigolds, rudbeckia hirta, sunflowers and zinnias, which will continue to bloom well into the autumn.
Plant cool season edibles - If you are short of garden space, sow the baby salad greens in containers and grow them in a sunny spot on your deck, patio or balcony. Frilly green and red leaf lettuce looks pretty on its own, or use the plants as fillers in containers with flowers.
Water - Do not assume that rain will water your planters. Mature planters have large leaves that act as umbrellas redirecting the water to the ground around the container. To check if a container needs water, push your finger deeply into the soil, if the soil feels dry, the plant needs water. Water trees and shrubs deeply in the fall if there is not adequate rainfall. They will need this water to survive the long winter drought.
Replace stressed out annuals - Hot dry weather, summer holiday time away from home and undersized containers each put a strain on planter gardens. If your containers look sad, they may be beyond redemption. Do yourself a favour and tip them in the compost pile and treat yourself to a few new planters: a virtual rainbow of chrysanthemums, asters, purple fountain grass and ornamental kale & cabbage are ready for fall planting from your local garden centre.