Okay, you've successfully brought your potted amaryllis through the summer with some fine looking leaves. Now what? If the plant spent the summer outdoors, bring it in; however, there is no rush. Unlike houseplants which should have been brought indoors several weeks ago, amaryllis can remain outdoors until October, as long as it is not exposed to frost.

Once you've brought amaryllis indoors, you have several options for what to do next. The first option is to simply stop watering the plant. When the leaves have dried and turned brown, cut them off. Second option is to lift the bulb from its pot and lay it on a bench to dry. As with option one, cut off the leaves when they've dried. Repot the bulb at any time.

In both cases, leave the bulbs in a dry state — potted or un-potted — until you want to force new growth and flowering. At that point, place the potted bulb in a warm, sunny spot and begin regular watering. It'll take about eight weeks for flowers to appear.

The third option is to let the plant continue to grow, giving it plenty of bright light. Water it as you would any houseplant, but don't feed it. At some point, the leaves will yellow and drop. Don't fret; it's a normal response. Just keep watering and soon new leaves and a flower stalk will appear. With either of the first two options, you can decide when to force the plant to bloom. With option three, the plant will decide.

Fall tasks


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With fall lurking, you have no option but to work on these tasks:

• Plant radishes, spinach, mache, arugula, mustard greens and spinach. There's still time to get a good harvest from these cool season vegetables.

• Watch for frost. Be ready to pick tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and summer squash if frost is predicted. The nice thing about these crops is that they can be harvested at any stage of development — yes, even the tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes, anyone?

• Intercede in the health of your lawn by interseeding; that is, sowing seed in thinned areas of the lawn to improve density. To ensure good seed-to-soil contact, either core aerify the lawn first before scattering seed or use a slit seeder. Slit seeders cut slices in the soil and drop seed into the slits. Core aerifiers and/or slit seeders may be available at a local rental store.

• Don't leave diseased plants hanging around in the vegetable garden. Pull up, bag up and dispose of tomato plants infected with blight or leaf spot, squash vines with powdery mildew and cucumbers with wilted vines. Spores of diseases will carry over through the winter on plant debris left in the garden. Disposing of diseased plants this fall will help reduce infections next year. The same holds true for diseased plants in landscape and flower gardens.

• Place cheesecloth over sunflower heads to keep birds from dining on the seeds. Sunflowers are mature when heads are completely brown with no trace of green. The heads can also be cut off before fully mature, but leave a foot of stem attached. Hang them in a dry, well-ventilated area to finish ripening. Sunflower seeds make for a very healthy snack; just ask the birds.

• Mix fresh grass clippings, animal manure or a high nitrogen fertilizer, such as cottonseed meal or blood meal, into your compost pile to speed decomposition. Keep the pile moist and turn it every 7 to 10 days. By late October, you should have some useable compost to spread over soil in flower and shrub borders.