November... No Gardening?  Think Again

November is probably the last chance for gardeners to do some of the chores missed during the last two months.  It is very difficult to say goodby to some of your beautiful annuals, to put them in the compost heap, or to remove them to plant your spring bulbs.  I still remember one year when the marigolds in front of our house reached gigantic proportions and there had not been a killing frost by the end of the first week of November.  I actually dug them out and made flower arrangements to give to my neighbors.  You can always press leaves and flowers, collect unopened seedheads, and just generally tidy up the place!

Have you harvested all your root crops yet?  Yes, you can leave those carrots in the ground and harvest them at your leisure over the colder months but it may not be very convenient.  A coldframe would be helpfulif you wish to harvest later.  Otherwise  your carrots may freeze and won't taste as good.  Get out the fork and dig them now.  Parsnips actually are said to taste better after a frost.  ( I really don't know as I am not fond of them.)

Any diseases in the garden?  Remove infected plants but do NOT add them to the compost heap. You don't want the spores of fungi and bacteria spread around your garden.

It is not necessary to cut everything down in your garden.  Leave some healthy plant material for winter interest and for the birds.  It is great fun to watch goldfinches eat the seed heads of Echinacea in late winter.  You will also be leaving places for beneficial insects.  It really saddens me to see a barren garden and especially barren garden soil in winter.

Did your newly planted grape hyacinths (muscari) send up leaves this fall?  Don't worry about it. This is natural and they will bloom just fine in the spring.  Just don't cut off those leaves.

Continue keeping roses, trees, and shrubs well watered until the ground freezes.  This insures that the roots will not be surface feeding but will go deep into the earth.  When the ground does freeze, the roots will be protected from freezing or from drying out from winter winds.  Mulch  only after the earth begins to freeze.  Do it too soon and your neighborly rodents will find themselves a warm home.  Some species of plants respond to the warm created by mulches as well.  They begin to grow again which is a bad idea when winter cold and winds return.  The mulch can consist of pine needles,straw, and leaves.  Leaves are a personal favorite.  My husband piles up the leaves and runs the mulching lawnmower through them.  Leaves which are shredded have much more surface area available for decomposition. Instead of matting on the soil surface they break down nicely and can be cultivated into the soil in the spring.

Bring inside any plant material that would make good decorations for Thanksgiving.  Dry upside down to keep flowering plant material from opening up too far and spoiling the effect you wish to create.

Buy or restart your amaryllis bulbs now so you will have blooms in a few weeks.  Simply pot them up in potting mix, leaving the upper part of the bulb exposed.  Water just to moisten.  Soon you will see flower stalks and sometimes leaves emerging from the bulb.  Place near a bright window.  Rotate to keep the stalks from leaning toward your windows.    

Forever Young Magazine November 2005