I am a great believer in digging, whenever it is possible to find a few feet not occupied by a lot of plants, and now is a perfect time to do it.
Not for me, because I missed my chance to dig up all the day lilies and replant them by mid-September. That would have been the time to do tremendous digging, working in some more peat moss (which I bought last spring for this project) and generally improving everything 100 percent.
But the press of affairs got in the way and the day lilies will have to sit there congested for another year.
Other people, however -- you, in short -- should do things on time, so I imagine you will get out there promptly and start digging, about 18 inches deep, wherever you can.
You will be glad you did, all the rest of the year. If you are thinking about planting a gang of new daffodils next September, for instance, nothing is better than digging the bed now. Maybe even 24 inches deep, if the back holds out, and incorporating some horse manure as well as a lot of peat. Then you can grow annuals there this spring and summer, removing them in late August, giving the bed a light digging over, and planting the bulbs after Labor Day.
I did it that way once, following the directions of some great Irish grower, and of course it made a difference doing things right. As it happened, those poor daffodils sat there seven years, but the preparation had been so thorough that they fared much better than I dared hope. Ordinarily they should be dug and divided every third year, every second year if you find the time.
Someone phoned me they are expecting a rosebush to be shipped to them in December, and are quite alarmed. But December is a grand month to plant almost anything that is hardy and dormant.
No need to fear, it's a better month than most for roses. But you never can foresee the weather; the ground might even be frozen. To guard against that possibility, pile leaves above the planting site. This is easy nowadays since alleys are full of trash bags full of leaves, and you just pile up the bags.
Then when the rose arrives you remove the bags and find the earth unfrozen, and just right for digging. Do not dig the hole in advance -- it will turn into a bog before the rose arrives. Dig your hole after the plant is on hand, then plant it promptly.
If it has been a few days in the shipping, soak the bush (the roots or the entire bush, it makes no difference) overnight, before planting it.
Some things are so obvious to old gardeners that they never think to mention them, and I have been chagrined to hear people say (after a rosebush died) nobody ever told them to pack the soil really firm about the roots. Surely I have said this before?
You want the soil crumbly when you plant. It will be just right if you've protected the planting site with leaves while awaiting the new treasure. Then you take the new rosebush out of its water, in which you have soaked it no more than 24 hours at most, and plant it making sure the crumbly earth goes all about the roots. Then, and I think this important, you tread on the earth with your feet, right up to the stem. Don't just pat the dirt, but give a medium-type stomp with your foot all around. This will make a slight depression, which you fill with two buckets of water. Within a few minutes it will soak in. Then fill the depression level with the surrounding soil, using good garden dirt, and do not tread on that.
If, for some reason, the rose or any other woody plant, simply cannot be got into the ground for a week or so, open the shipping carton but leave the plastic bag intact around the plant. Keep it in a cold unfreezing place, then remove it to soak it before it goes into its permanent spot in the garden.
If you see it will be a matter of perhaps some weeks before you get round to the planting, you should dig a hole and bury the entire plant (laying it on its side) and of course dig it up when you finally get round to planting. In such a case, you certainly want to mulch the ground heavily, else you may find the ground hard as an iceberg when you go to plant on, say, New Year's Eve.
Broadleaf evergreens are best planted while the ground is still warm in the fall, but after summer heat. All the same, I have planted both hollies and box at Christmas with complete success, so if circumstances force you to do things at a time of year you do not really like, don't be too terrified. The dratted things propose to live, after all; they're programmed to.