Gardening in November

Mary Ann Ryan
Adams County Master Gardener Coordinator

(11/2) Gardening for this season is just about over, but you can still have time to do a few things that will make your spring easier to manage.

First, consider cleaning up debris. Especially In the vegetable garden, any old plants and plant parts should be removed from the garden. If the plant was diseased, put it in a trash bag and send it away. If not, put it in the compost pile.

An additional step to take for your veggie garden is to spread some compost on the vegetable garden after cleaning it up. If you choose to do so, dig it under. This will loosen the soil for spring planting.

In the perennial garden, leave the stems of flowers in the garden as well as some leaf litter on the ground. Those stems and leaves provide living quarters for overwintering insects, amphibians and reptiles. Again, if there were issues with any disease, these plant parts should be thrown away. Sanitation is the best action to take for control of disease problems.

Take time now to edge beds. This will alleviate the chore in the spring. Spring will arrive, and all that will have to be done is a final bed clean-up and a fresh layer of mulch. When edging, use a square tipped shovel. This will give you a nice, clean cut.

Take advantage of any fall sales that may still be going on in garden centers. Bulbs can still be planted. Be sure they are firm to the touch when choosing them. Tulips, alliums, and hyacinths are especially easy to survive a late fall planting. Spring will arrive and be full of spring flowers!

There is also time to plant shrubs and trees. The ground isnít frozen, so there is a bit of time for roots to develop. When planting, always remember to dig the hole twice as wide as the ball of the plant. Donít dig it any deeper, as the root ball must sit soundly on existing soil. If planting an individual plant, backfill with the native soil that you took out of the hole. However, if you are planting an entire bed with multiple plants, adding compost and working it into the entire bed is recommended. Keep these newly planted shrubs and trees watered until the ground freezes. Often the demise of a fall planted shrub or tree is due to our lack of watering, not the plant itself. A general rule of thumb is that the plant needs one inch of water per week, either through rainfall, or garden hose.

Turf can use a bit of attention this time of year as well. Aeration will improve compaction from mowers and foot traffic from summer use as well as allow an opportunity to add compost and over-seed. Although the best time to do this is in September, our warm fall weather this year allows us time to continue to improve the soil that supports our lawns. If choosing to do this yourself, rent a core aerator. Core aerators actually pull plugs from the turf. This gives more space for the compost and follow up seeding to take hold.

Take time this fall to turn your compost pile. Hopefully, all summer long new material, like grass clippings and kitchen scraps, have been added to the pile. This fall, leaves should be added and time taken to turn under all of the leaves and green material from the summer. There may be a surprise of great compost already made when adding this chore to your fall list.

If you have a garden pond with fish and water plants, covering it with netting may be a good chore for this fall. Netting will keep out the fallen leaves as well as keeping the blue herons at bay! Once the plant cover is gone, there is little to protect those fish!

Hopefully, all your tender plants have been dug up. If not, cannas, gladiolas, callas, etc. should be dug up and stored in a cool, dry location for the winter. Tropical plants, like hibiscus, citrus, Norfolk Island pine, and other houseplants should be inside. When bringing them back in for the winter, be sure to check them for insects. Mealy bugs, aphids and scale like to come in where itís warm as well. Particularly check in the leaf axils and stems of the plants. Use an insecticidal soap or an oil spray for houseplants before bringing them in. Once they are inside, it becomes even harder to fight with these insects.

Begin the countdown for Christmas bulbs. Amaryllis and paperwhites are great color for the holidays. Buy accordingly, as the more sprouted the bulb, the quicker flowers will appear. Realize that cooler temperatures delay blooming and keep the flower stems more compact. Warmer temperatures speed up flowering as well as allow the flower stems to stretch. Keep these tips in mind and youíll have great flower color for the holidays.

Also in November, many flowering plants are available at the local nurseries and garden centers. Plants like cyclamen, Christmas cactus, and kolanchoe are abundant. Proper placing of these plants become imperative for good flowering and healthy plants. When in doubt, place winter flowering plants in cool, sunny windows for best flowering. The plants will hold the flowers for a longer period of time.

November also becomes the time when we start to think about holiday decorating. Containers outside have probably begun to look a bit sad as the chrysanthemum flowers are declining and any annuals that may have been mixed in have been zapped by the frost. Replacing those containers with winter color can easily be done by the end of the month. Adding evergreen branches like white pine, spruce and cypress, berried branches such as winterberry holly, callicarpa, and chokeberry all add great winter interest in a container. These branches can easily last for all of December and January, unless we have an unusually warm winter.

Adding potted shrubs as well can add that needed spice for a winter container. Evergreens or deciduous shrubs can be happy in a container provided watering continues through the winter and the plant is protected through freezing and thawing during the late winter months. Annual flowers like pansies can be purchased for the holiday pots. Flowering cabbage and kale may also be an option. Iíve seen cabbage kale spray painted gold or silver for a little "sparkle" at an entrance.

And in your "down time" this November, make notes as to what was successful in the garden and what was a failure. Determine whether the failures were due to weather, bad placement, or just improper care. Question the successes Ė did the plants do well because of the rain? Or the sun? Or the attention given to those particular plants? This will help in planning for next yearís garden, whether itís the vegetable garden, perennial garden, containers, or shrubs and trees. Keeping a garden journal becomes a great tool throughout the gardening season in those successes and failures. It is the first reference book used when ordering seeds and choosing plants for next seasonís garden.

So thereís lots that still needs to be done before calling the garden season over. Outside chores abound, from planting, edging, cutting back and turning compost, to preparing for indoor gardening Ė growing holiday plants and forcing bulbs. Preparing for the holiday decorations becomes a "top of the list" as we approach the end of the month. Enjoy all things gardening, grow plants and enjoy the month of Thanksgiving!

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