Last updated on December 2nd, 2011
“LEAVE THE GARDEN IN AUTUMN THE WAY YOU WANT TO FIND IT IN SPRING” is one of those quaint, homely slogans tossed around in old gardening books. It’s also the best possible advice for November. For every weed pulled and every clean-up operation completed before snow counts against the inevitable April bedlam (and April, at least for me, is pure bedlam):
Leaves. If you rake, shred, and compost these, you won’t have to buy expensive soil amendments (like peat moss) later on. I use shredded leaves in all of my gardens — they really are nature’s miracle.
Tulips, Hyacinths, and Daffodils. You can still set these out. I plant mine at least 8 inches deep, and then water them well to hasten root development before the soil freezes solidly. If squirrels are inclined to dig up your tulip bulbs, sprinkle the area with red pepper flakes.
Garlic. This is an autumn-planted bulb, too. Plant individual cloves 3 inches deep and about 6 inches apart.
Iris. Lightly mulch first year plantings after a hard freeze. Mature plantings don’t require protection.
Hellebores. Dig in a little bonemeal around the plants. Also, give them a top dressing of compost or shredded leaves.
Hostas. Cut back to the ground. Refrain, however, from dividing and transplanting at this time; you’ll have better success if you wait until spring.
Hoses, Faucets and Gutters. Store hoses in cellar or garage, drain faucets and clean out leaves from gutters. I hire out these last two jobs.
Driveways and Parking Areas. Insert markers while you can still pound them into the ground. Sturdy stakes with reflectors make good guides for snow removal, and keep most, if not all, thoughtless drivers from parking on lawns and beds.
Boxwood. If new plantings are of dubious hardiness, either cover them with burlap or spray them with WiltPruf. WiltPruf, an anti-transpirant, protects against both sun- and wind-burn. Hardy varieties like ‘Winter Gem’ (pictured above and below) need no protection at all.
Roses. If you live in zone 5 or colder, like I do, be prepared to work. Once the top two or three inches of soil has frozen, mound shredded leaves up a foot or more around plants. Cut only the most exuberant canes back to keep them from whipping around in the wind. Otherwise, do no pruning at all until spring.
Kitchen Garden. If soil has settled in raised beds, replenish now with compost, shredded leaves, or a mixture of equal parts manure, top soil and sand. Don’t dig the new material in; just leave it on top for further composting over winter.
Amaryllis. Why not treat yourself to one of the gorgeous, big-flowered King’s Court varieties? Start it out in a warm, dim spot, and water sparingly until growth is about 6 inches along. Then move to a cool, sunny place.
Bulbs. Potted or vased bulbs in cold storage need weekly checking for water. Don’t let roots dry out!
Thanksgiving Cactus. Mine is now fully in bud; perhaps yours is, too. Water and feed this Schlumbergera truncate weekly while it blooms.
English Ivy. Shower foliage weekly to avoid attacks of red spider and aphids.
Kalanchoe. For Christmas bloom, provide twelve to fourteen hours of darkness for three weeks before Christmas. I put this short-day plant in the dark guestroom closet from 8PM until 8AM.
Narcissus Paperwhites. Plant at mid-month for Christmas flowers.
N. Chinese Sacred Lily. For a yellow and white New Year’s bouquet, plant bulbs at mid-month.
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