SHARECOMMENTMORE

Leaves are a gardener's best friends. Most of them should remain in beds and borders to break down over winter and enrich the soil. The best thing you can do with excess leaves is to pile them and let them turn into leaf mold. Select an out-of-the-way spot, pile then and wait. Next year you'll have nutritious leaf mold compost to use as soil top-dressing or to use in potting soil mixtures.

If you want your leaf pile to be tidy, fence it with chicken wire or other fencing to keep leaves from blowing around. Tools that can also help you manage leaves include lightweight pop-up containers for collecting them and plastic leaf scoops--the size of cymbals--with "teeth."

Enhance your garden tool kit with a good pair of loppers. While I don't encourage any pruning of roses or shrubs until spring, you may need them for broken branches from recent--or future--wind or snow storms.

Hybrid tea roses benefit from a winter rose collar. Fit it around the vulnerable base of the plant, where the graft is, and stuff the collar with leaves or other mulch. Leave it on until early spring when you actually prune the rose.

Another fall project is rolling up and storing hoses. A decorative hose pot is an attractive way to store a hose and use it throughout the year. It's satisfying to have an orderly coiled hose rather than Medusa-like mess on the side of the house.

As gardeners turn their attentions to their house plants, I get the most-frequently asked question of this time of year: What are those little dark bugs buzzing around my house plants? The answer is that they're fungus gnats and their presence says you're watering too much.

Overly-wet soil leads to root rot as well as the gnats. These tiny insects don't necessarily harm the plants but they're indicative of a larger problem. Use a soap spray or insecticide to help eliminate them but the problem will disappear if you cut down on watering. Use a moisture meter to gauge how much you should actually water; apply water only when the meter says the soil is moderately dry.

Products shown in this segment are courtesy of Tagawa Gardens.