A year ago, we ended a warm, dry summer with a splash of sorts—October’s arrival brought a drastic change in the weather that began one of the wettest winters on record in our area. This year, we’ve once again experienced a dry summer and pleasant early fall, and while rainy weather is arriving, it’s now the perfect for getting some extra lawn and garden projects done. Here are a few of the items at the top of my to-do list this fall.

First, October is a key month for preparing your lawn for the wet season ahead. By now, you should be wrapping up any seeding projects in the yard—grass seed planted any later than the middle of October likely won’t get established in time for winter and will need to be replanted next spring—so it’s time to focus on taking care of your existing lawn.

Take time this month to spread a dose of fast-acting Super Sweet lime–available at Vander Giessen’s–on your lawn. To ensure healthy, green grass, lawn fertilizer is a given, but applying lime is arguably just as important. Our acidic soils in the Pacific Northwest provide perfect conditions for moss to grow, so reducing the acidity of your soil with lime will not only reduce the moss that will otherwise creep in over winter, it will allow your grass to grow thicker through the winter months.

Then, later this month, or even next month, feed your lawn one last time with Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard. Try to schedule application of this fertilizer around the time of your last mowing for the year so that the fertilizer can be taken up by the grass and stored in the roots through the winter months. This will ensure a healthy root system for your grass through the stress of winter cold and a quick recovery from winter’s wet weather once spring rolls around.

Secondly, October is a perfect time to plant shrubs and trees for fall color around your yard. It can be hard to picture just how vibrant certain shrubs will be when they’re a lush, dark green in spring or summer, so pick out the plants your yard needs for extra color now when they’re starting to show their autumn hues. Not only will you get to see exactly how the fall colors blend with your other landscape plants, you’ll enjoy the benefits of fall planting, specifically less stress on the plants, free watering from the heavens, and clearance sale prices at your favorite local nurseries!

For shade in summer, brilliant fall color and excellent structure in the garden year-round, maple trees are hard to beat. ‘Tobiosho’ is a particularly striking Japanese maple with deep green leaves in spring and summer that turn rich shades of brick-red and scarlet in autumn. Vitifolium Full Moon Maple is a lesser-known strain of maple similar to a Japanese maple but with broader leaves that resemble those of a grape vine. Vitifolium turns brilliant shades of red and orange in autumn, further adding to the interest it provides the rest of the season.

If your yard could use some smaller shrubs with fall color and you like plants that provide function and beauty, plant a blueberry bush or two! Blueberries make excellent landscape shrubs, and you’ll get the benefit of delicate pink or white flowers in spring and fresh berries in the summer. In autumn, blueberries turn flaming red and orange, and in winter the red stems will accent your garden further, offering a full four seasons of interest.

Third, this month is the perfect time to plant bulbs for early spring blooms. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses and some other need winter’s cold temperatures to properly acclimate and develop in time for flowering next spring. Stop by Vander Giessen Nursery to browse our top-quality bulbs and choose the colors and varieties best-suited for your tastes.

Finally, if you haven’t yet planted your winter pansies, take some time this month to fill up your pots, add splashes of color around your flowerbeds, or even hang a basket of trailing Cool Wave pansies by the front door. Of all the money you could spend on flowers throughout the year, dollars spent on pansies are absolutely going to give you the most bang for your buck. Not only will winter pansies bloom until a hard freeze, they’ll pop up as soon as the sun comes out or the snow melts and keep on going until you’re ready to tear them out next spring and plant your summer flowers.

Soon, autumn’s cold rains and dark days will drive many of us back inside for the winter. In the meantime, enjoy working in the yard to keep your lawn thriving and your flowerbeds filled with color!