Our newest Local Voice columnist is Master Gardner Jose German-Gomez. A New Jersey environmental activist, he is an Essex County Certified Master Gardener and Montclair resident. He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition, a nonprofit environmental organization.

Temperatures are dropping, and the leaves are falling, indicating that we are in the fall.

Even so, even some plants are still in bloom. This is the season people buy mums, but if we look around, we can find


aesthetically comparable perennial flowers native to our region. New England and New York asters are excellent choices to attract pollinators at the end of the season.

This is also the time to plant bulbs for next season, and if you have a vegetable garden, it is time to plant garlic.

The weather forecast predicts the first frost for mid-October. What to do? It is time to prepare your garden for the winter. The tendency is to cut everything down but be aware that birds are still around and will eat the seeds of your flowers, particularly coneflowers (echinacea), which attract goldfinches.

If you have veggies that are still productive, cover them with a fabric to reduce the damage of the cold weather.

Keeping some of your leaves on the ground, particularly on the flower beds, will improve the quality of your soil and allow beneficial insects and butterflies to reproduce in your yard next season, since some of them lay their eggs on leaves for next year.

Try to minimize the use of leaf blowers since they will blow away the mulch that you paid your landscaper for last spring, as well as other organic materials that enrich the soil.

If you have a cold frame, you can plant lettuce and radishes and would be able to harvest some in late November.

Marking the location of your perennial flowers is important since they will not all come up at the same time in spring. Sometimes we forget where they were planted and accidentally weed them out.

The fall is also a good time to plant new trees and shrubs, except for evergreens.

If you do not have a garden but are thinking of creating one, this is the perfect season to plan a new garden and even start creating the flowerbeds and making decisions about what to plant for next year. I highly recommend incorporating native plants into your garden design. They are drought tolerant, sustainable, and support beneficial wildlife like birds and pollinators.

Finally, avoid using poisons such as pesticides and herbicides to control bugs and weeds in your garden, since these chemicals have a negative impact on our environment and health.

Following these tips will keep your garden beautiful and productive through the fall and lay the groundwork for success in the coming year.