Gardening Notes For November


November has dawned sunny and relatively warm.  The frosts of October are bringing our trees into a bonanza of spectacular colors and the soil is certainly adequately moist to bring plants safely into the start of winter.  We are removing the annuals at Rutgers Gardens as they are now frosted and brown and it is now time to plant for the spring bulb display!

Things to do:

  • For those growing carrots, beets, turnips or Jerusalem artichokes and wishing to extend the harvest into winter, apply a heavy mulch of straw to the crops to prevent the soil from freezing deep and both ruining the crop and making harvest near impossible.  Parsley will continue to grow well into December, especially if covered by a basket on particularly cold nights.
  • Consider setting up a low tunnel and cover it with Agribon fabric to easily extend the growing and harvesting season through December.  It is ideal for Bok Choi, spinach and other cool season vegetable crops. 
  • Fertilize and lime the lawn – after a soil test!  November is the ideal time to develop a proper root system to get your lawn through next summer’s heat and droughts and the soil test will tell you what formulation of fertilizer is best. 
  • Remove heavy accumulations of leaves from lawn areas.  Minor amounts can be shredded and allowed to filter through the grass to the ground.  These leaf fragments have been found to be a good source of organic matter and beneficial minor nutrients for lawns.
  • Bring in all the hoses and drain outdoor pipes and irrigations systems before the start of heavy freezes later this month.  We have had a good rain of late, but should several weeks pass without rainfall, supplemental irrigation is still needed for newly installed plants.
  • For Roses, Peonies, Lilacs, Dogwoods, Beebalm and other plants that may have had black spot, powdery mildew, or other foliar diseases, make certain that all the leaves that could overwinter disease organisms, are removed from the base of the plants.
  • Shred and mulch your beds with newly fallen leaves – the lawn mower can dual as a good shredder of the leaves, provided they are not too thick.  They can be shredded and they serve as great mulch for annual, perennial and shrub beds.  There is no harm in mixing in some grass clippings with the leaves.
  • Remove frosted or tired looking annuals from the flower beds and compost those that do not reseed.
  • Finish digging and bring Canna, Alocasia, Colocasia (pictured at right), and Banana roots into the basement.  Divide the clumps and either repot them into a new container, making certain to keep the media only slightly moist for the winter or wrap them in several sheets of newspaper.
  • Cut back Asters as soon as they finish flowering to prevent self-sowing.  As the frosts become more severe, more perennials that lack winter interest will require cutting to the ground to keep the border neat and tidy.  Some, such as the tall Sedums and most of the ornamental grasses, can remain standing since they have an attractive winter outline.  It is important to leave as many ornamental grasses and those perennials with a more attractive winter form standing as they provide winter habitat for many of our native bees and pollinators.
  • For those with Fig trees, November is the time to wrap your plants or bring them into a cool basement or garage if they are in a container. 
  • Finish planting bulbs.  Remember, the need to be planted to a depth of 3x the diameter of the bulb.  It always takes longer than we think, and some garden centers may offer sales towards the end of the month.
  • Continue to weed as time permits!  The cool season weeds are flourishing.  Getting ahead of them now will help to prevent them from flowering and going to seed come spring.
  • Finish emptying clay containers that can crack over the winter and store them in a protected area or upside down and under a tarp if left out-of-doors.  For terracotta pots, make certain that the pottery is washed well to remove all the built up fertilizer salts and place out in the sun to ensure that they dry thoroughly before storing.
  • At the end of the month, pot up Paperwhite Daffodils and Amaryllis for the Holidays.
  • Save some interesting seed capsules from perennials (such as Blackberry Lily, Belamcanda chinensis) and combine them with Holly or Beautyberry (Callicarpa species) for a wonderful Thanksgiving centerpiece.
  • Look over your Garden and contemplate which areas are in need of interest in the form of plants with fruit, form or evergreen foliage.  November is still a good time to plant deciduous shrubs and some may even be discounted at your local garden center! 
  • If you purchase plants at end of season discounts, make certain that the root ball of the container plants – which is probably very root-bound – is thoroughly broken up to prevent girdling roots and loss of plant vigor in the future.
  • Enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!