Fall gardening chores tend to have a “bedtime” theme – before your plants begin their long winter’s nap, they need to be tended and tucked cozily into their beds. Fall gardening is also an exercise in delayed gratification – new plants will barely put down roots before going dormant, cleaned and amended beds won’t show their gratitude until spring, and bulbs disappear underground, making you wonder if they’ll ever reappear.
Don’t despair – instead, use this season to clean up, organize, and take stock of your lawn and garden.
In November, most of the country experiences the first frost or freeze, and with it, the onset of winter dormancy. You can continue many of the gardening chores of September and October as long as your soil isn’t frozen.
Here are some additional lawn and garden chores to consider for November.
Shrubs and Trees
- After the leaves have fallen, you can once again start pruning deciduous trees and shrubs. If your area normally has a warm spell or “Indian Summer,” hold off until you’re sure the plants are dormant so they won’t put out new growth.
- Be on the lookout for berry-covered branches for use in indoor decorations.
- Continue planting container-grown ornamental trees and shrubs until the ground freezes.
- Water evergreens until freezing weather, but make sure they don’t get waterlogged.
- Start shopping for a live Christmas tree. If you’re planning to plant it after the holidays, save yourself some work by digging the hole now while the soil is workable, and cover the soil with burlap.
- In zones 8 and warmer, plant bare-root roses, trees, and shrubs, as well as perennials, ornamental grasses, and winter vegetables.
- When you prune, keep some of the cuttings to root indoors.
- Winterize roses after the first frost but before the ground freezes. Prune canes back to 3’- 4’ or tie-up climbers. Then mound soil at least 12” deep and 12” wide around the stem and crown.
Perennials and Bulbs
- In colder climates, dig up chrysanthemums after they finish blooming if you want to keep them over the winter.
- After the leaves turn yellow, you can divide and transplant fall-blooming bulbs such as autumn crocus, colchicum, and sternbergia.
- Continue planting winter and spring-flowering bulbs.
- Check on your stored tender bulbs to make sure they’re in a cool, dry place. Make sure you have them labeled so you’ll know what they are.
- If the ground isn’t frozen, you can continue to plant perennials. Look for discounted perennials at the garden center!
- In frost-free areas, you can keep on planting bulbs that don’t require a winter’s chill, such as anemone, amaryllis, calla lilies, freesia, lilies, and garlic.
Annuals and Containers
- Empty and clean outspent annual containers.
- Store clay pots indoors, since they can break in freezing weather.
- Smash up cracked or broken pots to use as drainage in next year’s containers.
- Plant colorful winter annuals such as pansies and ornamental cabbages.
- Continue to mow cool-season grasses until they stop growing.
- Rake lawns and remove debris. Recycle leaves as mulch.
- November is the traditional time to apply a winterizing fertilizer to your lawn (higher potassium and phosphorus, and lower nitrogen). Apply after the grass stops growing but at least a month before the ground freezes.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Till the soil in your vegetable beds and add organic matter or compost to be ready for early spring planting.
- Cut back asparagus tops after they turn yellow.
- Enjoy the final harvest!
- Cut back on feeding houseplants.
- As the days shorten, houseplants will need less water, but make sure they get enough humidity.
- Be on the lookout for spider mites and other pests that can be found in indoor, climate-controlled environments.
- If you have chilled bulbs for the holidays, start forcing them by placing the pots in a relatively cool spot (60º F) with indirect sunlight. Increase temperature and light as green growth and buds appear. Plan for buds within 3-4 weeks.
Cleanup and Maintenance
- Clean up leaves before they suffocate your lawn and garden. Use them as mulch around plants, or in between planting rows in the vegetable garden, or add them to the compost bin. Up to 1” of leaves can be mown and mulched into your lawn.
- Remove fallen leaves that get caught in the foliage of shrubs and groundcovers.
- Take off any diseased or pest-infested foliage.
- “Tuck in” your perennial, vegetable, bulb, and strawberry beds with a layer of mulch. Heavily mulch plants that are susceptible to the cold.
- Add organic material under (or in place of) the mulch.
- Discourage munching critters like squirrels and rabbits by lightly piling evergreen boughs over plants and vegetables.
- Clean, sharpen, and oil garden tools.
- Drain and store garden hoses and protect outdoor faucets from freezing weather.
- Winterize your garden and lawn machinery according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Fill up bird feeders for overwintering birds.
- Make a safe place to store some hardwood fireplace ashes for use in next year’s garden.
- If you have fish in your garden pond, continue feeding them until the water temperature drops below 50º F, then stop until the water warms above 50º in spring.
- Move hardy water plants to the deepest part of your pond.
- Stop all watering when the ground freezes.
- Watch the weather, and prolong your enjoyment of veggies and flowers by protecting them on frosty nights.
- Keep adding to your compost pile, even though it will slow down in cold weather.