story by claire schuchman gardening nature's way part one of a Four-part series. Fall In the Garden he joyous shouts of school children fill the late afternoon air as they make their way home from school kicking the fallen leaves. The air has cooled; the days grow shorter. Mother Nature is getting ready to put on her final show. With the exception of a few late bloomers, the garden is getting ready to rest. As summer fades, the gardener savors every moment in the garden, knowing the days are numbered before winter sets in. It is now that the observant gardener is able to see if the mulching, fertilizing and pruning done in the spring was successful. Was the soil adequately protected? Is there evidence of healthy microbial activity? Did the plants perform well? What problems can be remedied now and which have to wait for spring? The garden, which works hard during The growing season, needs To be replenished, and nature provides the If you are able to shred the fallen leaves, you can use them right away as winter mulch that will protect the soil and nourish your plants as they break down during the cold weather. Fall is a greaT Time For planTing perennials, shrubs and Trees. The cool air and warm earth are ideal conditions tools for building soil. Begin the process by choosing a spot in your yard that is shielded from your view and your neighbors' view. Then begin raking your fallen leaves into a pile that eventually will be at least three feet high and five feet long. A pile of this size has enough mass to heat up adequately, which aids in the decomposition process and prevents disease from proliferating in the leaves over the winter making it counterproductive to use them in the spring. Water the layers as you add to the pile. Using a pitch fork, turn the pile, putting the top layer on the bottom, so it heats up. Do this at least three times. Turning is easily accomplished if you simply locate the new pile next to the old pile. In so doing, the pile will be adequately turned over. Mulch your beds in spring with these decomposed leaves and in the spring, you'll have healthy soil. 44 mtl october 2009 for plants to put out new root growth and get established before winter. Perennials need six to eight weeks in the ground before the first hard freeze. The first of October is the about the last chance to safely put perennials in the ground. Shrubs and trees are a different story; they can go in up until the ground is frozen. Planting at this time of year often means much less maintenance. Because fall is usually rainy, it is a good time to plant in areas that are not accessible to supplemental water. Newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials will have a much better chance of survival, if they can get what they need directly from nature. Fall is an ideal Time To renovaTe The lawn, cool air and warm earTh. Here is simple three-step process. Start with core aeration. The little holes open up the soil to air, water and nutrients. Second, cover the lawn with one half inch of mushroom compost. The compost provides a great seed bed, retains moisture and has a neutral pH. The last step is to seed. Use a high quality seed specifically formulated for your conditions. Water lightly twice a day to keep the seed from drying out, and in seven to 10 days the seed will germinate. At that point, water deeply enough for the roots to receive the moisture every other day until the seedlings are well established. The compost will eventually break down and be used by the worms and microorganisms, which in turn enriches the soil.