The cooler weather of autumn inspires many to harvest a few more glorious hours in the home garden. And why not, when there is so much gardening still to do? Check these tips to help you plan your precious gardening time in the last several weeks of the year.
Here, in checklist format, are suggestions gleaned from a number of sources. These tips for November gardening apply to suburban gardens in zones of 4 to 8 or thereabouts. For further details on any specific task, look to Dave's Garden's plentiful supply of articles!
Trees and Shrubs
Mulch trees and shrubs. Leave the base of the trunk bare, (no mulch volcanos spouting trees, like you see in some commerical landscaping jobs!) then mulch out to the drip line if desired. Use woody mulch material to foster soil fungi and slowly add organic matter to the soil.
Water woody plants, if fall rain is lacking, until the soil freezes.
Prune only dead wood at this time.
Plant in cool fall weather. Allow a month before hard freeze of the soil for roots to settle in.
Provide wind protection for recently planted or marginally hardy shrubs.
Watch fall color of your woody plants and consider adding red, purple, or yellow with future plantings.
Keep mowing at 2 to 2 1/2 inches for healthy grass.
Water the lawn as needed while grass continues to grow.
Keep leaves raked off of grass. Mulch-mow light leaf cover right into the lawn.
Fertilize once more this month, if the grass is still growing, as in the Mid Atlantic region and southward. Use "winterizer" if your lawn needs phosphorous according to a soil test.
Apply pelletized lime now if needed.
Cold zone gardeners may need to winterize irrigation systems.
Hand weed but do not use chemical herbicides or weed preventers.
Perennials, Annuals, Vines
Remove dead material to the compost or trash.
Remove durable stakes and store them for use next year. Remove twigs used for support and use them in hugelkultur or compost.
Last chance to collect any seeds, or leave seed heads for winter interest and winter bird feeding.
Dig tubers of dahlias, caladiums, and other cold sensitive plants. Even if frost has killed the tops of such plants, the tubers may be fine. Dry well, in the sun if possible, before storing in a frost free place.
Top fower beds with finished compost before the ground freezes; mulch flowerbeds after the ground freezes. Do not let compost or mulch cover the center of perennials and hardy plants, do not mulch iris roots.
Plant tulips now; snap up a last minute bargain. Tulips can be planted later than most other hardy spring flowering bulbs.
Plant any other bulbs you've already bought but think twice on clearance on narcissus and small hardy bulbs. Their growth may lag with this late planting.
Vegetables and Small Fruits
Clean up garden beds. Put the waste into a hot managed compost or remove to the trash or burn pile.
Strawberry beds need three to four inches of straw mulch now, for winter protection.
Red and gold raspberries may be cut to the ground now to rejuvenate the planting.
Empty ceramic and inexpensive terra cotta pots and let them dry for storage. They'll crack if they freeze while damp
Clean up spent plants, empty and store pots, or use containers for small evergreens, hardy bulbs, or a seasonal display.
Used potting soil can be composted, added to garden beds, or refreshed with a generous amount of finely chipped bark.
Before freezing weather, empty and clean barrels and their fittings and hoses. Store barrels so they don't collect rain.
Reconfigure downspouts if needed for proper drainage while not in rain-collection mode.
Soils and Composting
Take a soil test now, unless your area has just had massive rainfall. That rain could skew the test results.
Apply pelletized lime now, if needed. The lime will begin to work during winter and soil will be ready in spring.
Build leafy composts, and save extra leaves in temporary bins or bags.
I grew up playing in the Maryland woods, and would still do it often if life allowed! Graduate of University of Maryland, my degree is in Agriculture. Gardens and natural areas give me endless opportunity for learning and wonder. Naturally (pun intended) my garden style leans towards the casual, and my cultural methods towards organic. I like to try new plants, and have "some of everything" in my indoor and outdoor gardens. Thanks go to my parents for passing along their love of gardening and nature, and my husband and kids for being patient when I get lost in the garden.