Taking Stock: The calendar page has turned and there’s no getting around the fact that fall is approaching. Like other seasons in a gardener’s life, autumn is a busy one: in the vegetable garden there’s harvesting and preserving, cleanup, and, if you are extending your season, replanting to do. The flower garden and potted ornamentals are exhibiting the fatigue that’s the result of long, hot August days, and there’s division and planting of perennials to attend to. But if you can spare a few minutes to walk around, perhaps early in the morning, before the sun is high, it’s the perfect time to take note of what worked well for you this year and what could be improved. You can bring a journal or notepad with you, but nothing beats the ability to snap a photo with your phone. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and words won’t be needed to remind you that the iris and bee balm are way too tall in their current location and need to be moved to the back of the border, or that the pretty dianthus are being smothered by ground cover. You can chronicle the good — coleus! clear winner in the long-lasting, tidy and brilliantly colored annual division! — the bad — yikes! that salvia looks way too ratty! — and the ugly, like yellowing leaves or disease on the fruit trees. Since the photos are dated, you can track which week the apples were falling from the trees (it seems early this year) or how ripe the chokecherries are.

Planting Perennials: While you may be accustomed to planting perennials in the spring, there are several good reasons for fall planting of some varieties. First, if you buy a blooming perennial now, you get a chance to enjoy it before the frost sets in, as well as next spring and summer. Second, if you recall this past spring, cold, wet days seemed to alternate with scorching heat — not the ideal conditions for planting. Autumn thus far has had temperatures that are consistently warmer, and the sun is less intense. Also, the soil is warm, allowing the roots of new plants to flourish. Even when air temperatures drop, the soil holds its heat. Further, weeds are less aggressive, especially if you’ve kept up with your gardening chores. This is also the time when nurseries are discounting their stock, and who doesn’t like a bargain? While you’re putting in perennials, you can even coordinate your spring bulb planting, tucking in daffodils and crocus along with lilies or garden phlox. Finally, late summer and fall is the ideal time to plant perennials that flower in spring and early summer. When you plant in the fall, early-season bloomers have a chance to build root systems and establish vigor, which will be apparent in next year’s bloom. Here are a few ground rules for planting perennials in autumn: Plan to get them in at least six weeks before the first freeze. Don’t fertilize your newcomers; since fall-planted perennials will be going into winter dormancy, new growth that is encouraged by feeding will be killed when the first frost comes. Avoid planting late-flowering perennials such as asters, mums, black-eyed Susans, and perennial ornamental grasses; these do best planted in spring. Tuck a blanket of mulch around the base of your new plants to help them overwinter in cold climates. Finally, water, water, water. Even with autumnal rains, you want to be sure that newly planted perennials get enough moisture to develop new root growth.

Snatching a Few Minutes for Reading: The new online edition of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens magazine is gorgeous, with vivid photos and interesting articles, a great way to see what’s going on in our very own world-class botanical garden. The format is easy to use and you don’t have to be a member to receive it. In addition to this treasure, there are two articles that appeared in The New Yorker magazine this past year that cast new light on gardening and farming as we know it. “Can Farming Make Space for Nature,” in the February 17th and 24th issues, details the work of Jake Fiennes (yes, the same family as Joseph and Ralph) as conservation manager of the Holkham Estate, one of Britain’s most important private landholdings, covering about 25,000 acres and including a nature reserve, which is visited by almost a million people a year, and a farming business that grows potatoes, sugar beets, and barley, for beer. Fiennes believes that farmers in the 21st century must cultivate as much as they can on their land — fungi for the soil, grasses for the pollinators, weeds for the insects, insects for the birds, pasture for the livestock — for the long-term goals of carbon capture and food production. He’s restored hedgerows and swamps that Britain’s push towards mechanized farming had abolished and proven that less intensively farmed land can be homes for all kinds of wildlife and that reserving margins of farmland for wetlands, wildlife, and flowers can restore the environment while increasing crop yields. It’s a must-read. The second article, in the August 24 issue, is “Nature and Nurture,” about the reparative powers of gardening. It’s a fairly brief article about the writings of British psychiatrist and author Sue Stuart-Smith and her husband Tom Stuart-Smith, one of the country’s best-known garden designers. Sue Stuart-Smith has written “The Well-Gardened Mind,” which was a surprise best-seller in the U.K. and came out in the U.S. this summer. The article makes one reconsider the whole point of gardening and think of its sustenance in more than physical ways. The book, alas, I’ll have to save until we’re tucked in for the winter, but the articles and magazine are great bedtime reading.