If we haven't reached the end of the gardening season, we can at least see it from here. So if you haven't finished your buttoning-up chores, you'd better do them soon.

Pull out spent annuals and vegetables. It's fine to leave perennials in place if they show no signs of disease. The seedheads may offer food for the birds. The stems trap the snow, which can help insulate the roots of plants. And the stems, branches and seedheads offer visual interest in an otherwise barren landscape.

Plant spring-blooming bulbs. Now. There's no need to wait to plant. Do it before it gets bone-chilling cold. Water well after planting and continue to water until the ground freezes, unless we get regular rains.

Mow over the leaves on your lawn. You don't have to rake them unless you have a very thick layer of leaves. Just chop them up until the leaf particles are fine enough to filter down into the soil. (When you're done mowing, you should be able to see the blades of grass through the leaves.)

Empty containers -- all containers. (Ceramic, terra cotta and even concrete containers filled with soil can crack and break if left outside during the winter.)

If you mulch with leaves, bag them up now, but wait to mulch. In mid-November, spread a 6- to 8-inch layer of leaves (chopped is best) or straw in perennial beds. Newly planted trees and shrubs could benefit from a thinner layer of mulch (about 4 inches).


Gardening goes to school

Starting a school garden takes more than just preparing a site and picking the plants. It may take raising money, persuading reluctant administrators and managing overexcited children. Those are some of the many issues addressed in "How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers" (Timber Press, $24.95).

The book touts the benefits of school gardens, including helping children connect with nature. And it covers the how-tos of planting and maintaining a garden and offers tips and tricks for success. But it also helps parents and educators research and develop a garden program, sell the idea to the principal, secure funding and plan for classroom use. All in all, it's a learning experience.