Late fall and early winter may not seem like great times to be active in the garden, but in many areas, there are still tasks that need to be completed. In regions with milder climates, November can be a great time for wrapping up autumn gardening chores, and every gardener should take steps to keep their beds in great shape right up to the first heavy snowfall.
In November, gardeners should…
As leaves keep falling, they build up on the lawn and garden, creating thick mats that are hard to remove in spring. Raking throughout November will minimize leftover leaves, and they can be shredded for mulch or added to a compost pile.
A lot of growth might be finished for the year, but weeds are hardy and will continue to grow and spread into late fall. Keep weeding to remove as many as possible, and there will be fewer to contend with when spring begins.
After all the leaves have fallen and trees have gone dormant, they can be gently pruned. Any dangerous branches – injured, broken or diseased areas – should be pruned away so they are not a bigger hazard in winter.
If you decorated with pumpkins for Halloween, they're ripe for composting in November. Smash pumpkins into smaller pieces to help them decay more quickly, and remove any painted bits or accumulated candle wax before adding them to the pile.
Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
November isn't too late to plant hardy spring bulbs, particularly early blooming varieties. Daffodils, alliums, crocuses, hyacinths and other spring favorites can all be planted in fall, and they will be ready for beautiful blooms as soon as spring arrives.
Add Lime to the Soil
If your soil is too acidic, it is best to add lime to the soil in fall to help balance the pH. Lime acts very slowly, but will permeate the soil over the winter to be ready for spring planting. Avoid other fertilizing treatments in late fall, however, because they will leach away before spring.
Keep Watering New Plants
Any newly planted trees and shrubs should continue to be watered throughout November, until the ground is freezing. Extra water will bolster delicate roots and stems to help them withstand the harsh winter, ensuring they are healthier in spring.
Automatic sprinkler systems, including garden soaker or drip systems, should be winterized in November before the ground freezes and pipes can be damaged. Drain the system completely and store any external pipes, hoses or fixtures in a shed or garage. Cover external spouts with insulated covers to protect them for winter.
Thicken Mulch Layers
Add an extra layer of mulch around plants at the end of November, when the soil is becoming chilled. This will help insulate delicate roots and foster better growth in early spring. Keep mulch away from trunks and thick stems, however, to minimize insect infestations and diseases that can harm plants.
Mow Lawn Short
The last mowing of fall should trim grass down to no more than 1.5-2 inches tall so it is set for winter. Longer grass will get matted down under winter rains and snow, and will be more difficult to groom in spring.
Tie Upright Evergreens
Large buildups of snow and ice can split upright evergreens such as arborvitae, juniper and yew, and November is the time to gently wrap the shrubs together or tie several large boughs together to strengthen the structure so they do not break in winter.
Clean Out the Greenhouse or Shed
When it is growing too cold to work outdoors comfortably, it is the perfect time to clean out the garden shed, greenhouse or other storage areas. Eliminate broken pots and useless equipment, tidy shelves, organize tools and otherwise straighten the area to be ready for a productive spring.
Decorate With Fall Foliage
Even if the harvest is long since over, a fall garden can still be part of decorations for late fall and early winter. Add evergreen boughs, seed pods or stalks, dried flowers, colorful branches or berry sprigs to containers, window boxes or indoors arrangements for lovely seasonal touches.
November may not be a busy month for growing produce or harvesting a garden's bounty, but there are plenty of gardening tasks to keep busy and ensure not only a healthy winter for the garden, but a quick start to a productive spring.