List-making seems to go with this season. It's the time of year when, suddenly, everything around me must be organized; when projects that I haven't thought about all year take on a sense of urgency.
The garden is no exception. I'm sure that every gardener in the Washington area has cleaned his garden by now -- except me. So I dash about doing garden chores that should have been done a month ago. One that I enjoy doing now is drawing a sketch of the plot and labeling what vegetables I grew where. This serves two purposes. First, it boosts my ego. When you see all the things you grew in the past season sketched out on paper -- well, you feel great. Second, while I'm pretty good at remembering in the spring what I grew the previous summer, I don't necessarily remember the year before that. This can become important for proper crop rotation. If you do your sketch in conjunction with a record book, you'll find a pattern. Certain crops, for example, do better in certain locations. Soil that grew nitrogen-gulping corn one year may have to be boosted for proper yeilds of other vegetables the following year.
Drawing a garden plan in the fall makes sense in another way. We're all used to drawing a spring layout. But as we all know, the best-laid plans . . . The fall plan is the one that reflects what really happened, not what we wished could happen. So get a legal pad or some graph paper and give your ego a boost. MUMS THE WORD: The recent balmy weather has extended some fall flowering perennials such as chrysanthemums, but by this weekend most will probably be just about done. Mums have a way of taking over an area. If yours are newly planted this fall, keep that in mind for next year. You may have far more than you'd planned on. This year, after they're finished blooming, cut them back to about three inches. While I normally don't recommend cutting back perennials that are left in the ground year- round, there are a few exceptions, for reasons of esthetics or productivity. Certain perennial herbs -- such as thyme and sage -- should be cut back almost to the ground in the late fall. They'll be doubly productive the following year, without the presence of woody stems from previous years. In the case of mums, pruning provides more attractive growth and a greater profusion of flowers in following years. PLAY MISTY: Even if you're not using your heat as much this December as you did last, keep house plants misted. The winter air is often drier, and plants that have been brought inside for the winter appreciate a good daily misting. The impatiens and geraniums I cut back a few weeks ago are growing like mad, with sturdy, bright-green foliage. They seem to prefer less rather than more water. You can allow the soil to become almost completely dry before watering again. Using fish emulsion (diluted twice as much as package directions recommend) monthly seems to give them a bit of a boost. FRUITS OF WINTER: I'm still harvesting carrots, radishes, chard, spinach and some perennial herbs fresh from the garden. You can also be harvesting parsnips, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. I noticed that some of the early Alaska peas that I had planted in August dropped some fruit to the ground, and these are vining their way nicely a foot or two up the supporting trellis. They would have fallen into the soil about mid-October, so if the weather holds out just a little longer, I may have yet another small crop of peas. Will wonders never cease? TO A GARDENER WITH LOVE: A few gift ideas for less than
* A bag of dry sheep manure. Your gardener can mix a cup of manure to four gallons of warm water, and offer his plants a wonderful, diluted manure tea, indoors or out.
* A five-gallon bucket to mix manure tea in. I dislike aluminum buckets because they get dented easily or they swell and crack in the winter if they freeze with water in them. Good materials are rigid or semi-rigid plastic. Stainless steel is the ultimate, but that would price it out of this category.
* A bale of alfalfa or clover hay. Very high in nitrogen. If your gardener is smart, he'll rush right out and spread it on his garden. If not, he may want to store it in his garage until spring, when he can use the mulch on a specific crop. Unde