Gardening Notes For November

November dawned gray and glooming with a few showers scattered about the state.  We certainly could use more rainfall since we have only had two significant storms since midsummer.  Drought in autumn is often difficult to visually detect through plants, since turf will often remain green and the change of tree colors belies the need for water in woody plants.  Make certain that all new plantings are watered regularly.  The drought truly impacted the old Rhododendrons at the Gardens, since those that were under stress from bores or other issues are showing significant dieback. 

Things to do:

  • For those growing carrots, beets, turnips or Jerusalem artichokes and wishing to extend the harvest into winter, apply a heavy mulch of straw to the crops to prevent the soil from freezing deep and ruining the crop.  Parsley will continue to grow well into December, especially if covered by a basket on particularly cold nights.
  • Consider setting up a low tunnel to extend the harvest through December.  It is ideal for Bok Choi and other cool season vegetable crops.  For those that wish to learn more, Rutgers Gardens is doing an hour presentation on November 14th at 3:00 pm in our vegetable garden.
  • Fertilize and lime the lawn – after a soil test!  November is the ideal time to develop a proper root system to get your lawn through next summer’s droughts and the soil test will tell you what formulation of fertilizer is best. 
  • Remove heavy accumulations of leaves from lawn areas.  Minor amounts can be shredded and allowed to filter through the grass to the ground.  These leaf fragments have been found to be a good source of organic matter and minor nutrients for lawns.
  • Bring in all the hoses and drain outdoor pipes and irrigations systems.  We have had adequate moisture of late, but should several weeks pass without rainfall, supplemental irrigation is still needed for newly installed plants.
  • For Roses, Peonies, Lilacs, Dogwoods, Beebalm and other plants that may have had black spot, powdery mildew, or other foliar diseases, make certain that all the leaves that could overwinter disease organisms, are removed from the base of the plants.
  • Shred and mulch your beds with newly fallen leaves – the lawn mower can dual as a good shredder of the leaves, provided they are not too thick.  They can be shredded and they serve as great mulch for annual, perennial and shrub beds.
  • Remove frosted annuals from the flower beds and compost those that do not reseed.
  • Cut back Asters as soon as they finish flowering to prevent self-sowing.  As the frosts become more severe, more perennials will require cutting to the ground to keep the border neat and tidy.  Some, such as the tall Sedums and most of the ornamental grasses, can remain standing since they have an attractive winter outline.
  • Finish bringing Canna, Alocasia, Colocasia, and Banana roots into the basement.
  • For those with Fig trees, November is the time to wrap your plants or bring them into a cool basement or garage if they are in a container. 
  • Finish planting bulbs.  Remember, the need to be planted to a depth of 3x the diameter of the bulb.  It always takes longer than we think, and some garden centers may offer sales towards the end of the month.
  • Continue to weed as time permits!  The cool season weeds are flourishing.  Getting ahead of them now will help to prevent them from flowering and going to seed come spring.
  • Finish emptying clay containers that can crack over the winter and store them in a protected area or upside down and under a tarp if left out-of-doors.  For terracotta pots, make certain that the pottery is washed well to remove all the built up fertilizer salts and place out in the sun to ensure that they dry thoroughly.
  • At the end of the month, pot up Paperwhite Daffodils and Amaryllis for the Holidays.
  • Save some interesting seed capsules from perennials (such as Blackberry Lily, (Belamcanda chinensis) and combine them with Holly or Beautyberry (Callicarpa species) for a wonderful Thanksgiving centerpiece.
  • Look over your Garden and contemplate which areas are in need of interest in the form of plants with fruit, form or evergreen foliage.  November is still a good time to plant deciduous shrubs and some may even be discounted at your local garden center! 
  • If you purchase plants at end of season discounts, make certain that the root ball of the container plants – which is probably very root-bound – is thoroughly broken up to prevent girdling roots and loss of plant vigor in the future.
  • Happy Thanksgiving!