November Garden Tips

November Tips

November is a month where there are still gardening chores to do.  The lawn may still need to be mowed and weeds need to be pulled.  However, it is a great month to prepare for the up-coming holidays.

Indoor Plants

  • Potted geraniums grown indoors should be allowed to become somewhat dry before watering.  They need plenty of sun to promote vigorous growth and flowering.
  • Reduce fertilization of house plants until late April or May when new growth begins.
  • Try dwarf varieties of annual flowers to use as house plants this winter.  Asters, calendulas, celosias, and marigolds come in compact, colorful cultivars that can be maintained in the home if sufficient light is provided.
  • Amaryllis bulb may not bloom if they are in too large of a pot.  There should be no more than one inch of space on each side of the bulb.  At least one third of the bulb should be above the soil line.
  • Cyclamen is an exception in indoor plants.  It should be fed and watered all through winter.
  • Encourage African violets to bloom by giving them plenty of light.  They can be in a south window during dark, winter months.
  • An attractive, inexpensive window garden can be created by rooting plant cuttings in tinted glass containers.
  • Soil pulled away from the pot rim means inadequate watering and resulting root problems.  It will difficult to add sufficient water to rewet the soil.  Soak the pot in a sink full of water, then drain it thoroughly.
  • Remember cacti go dormant during the winter, so be sure to keep cool (around 50 degrees F) and withhold water until they show signs of growth in spring.
  • Insufficient light will cause a jade plant to lose most of its old, thick leaves and grow thin, new ones on spindly stems.  While jade will survive low light, it needs as much direct sunlight as possible to look its best.
  • African violets require a day temperature of 70 degrees F and night temperature of 65 degrees F.  They may die if the air temperature dips below 55 degrees F.  African violets do well under fluorescent lights 12 to 14 hours a day.  Light should be 8 to 12 inches from the plant.
  • Take cuttings from geranium to enjoy indoor blooms over the winter.

Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs

  • After several killing frosts, cut back dormant perennials to about 3 inches above the ground.  After the ground is frozen, plants can be mulched to guard against displacement due to soil heaving.
  • If roses are to be planted, do so before the ground freezes, and water well.
  • Clean up rose beds.  Be sure all diseased leaves are raked up and destroyed.  Spring (before the plants start active growth) is the preferred season for pruning roses.  Do not cut off canes in the fall.  It is better to stake and tie extra long canes in fall to prevent winter wind damage.
  • Move containers holding live plants to a protected spot if possible.  Protect the roots by covering the soil and the container with a thick layer of straw and leaves.  Check the moisture level of the pots and water if needed.
  • Some plants are very sensitive to de-icing salts.  Use sand or sawdust on walkways near plantings to prevent falls.
  • Tulips and Dutch iris need to be planted in cold soil so they do not send up shoots before roots are established.  If tulips are planted deeply, they will produce large, uniform flowers for years.
  • After chrysanthemums are killed by frost, cut them down in preparation for winter.  Apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of loose mulch, such as leaves, after the ground has frozen.
  • Peonies can be planted now in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter.  Dig holes 18 inches and fill halfway with a mixture of soil, and set the tubers so the buds are 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface.  Backfill, firm the soil, and water.  Peonies do not grow well after being moved and will not bloom for many years.
  • Add shredded leaves to the base of your ferns to protect the growing tips.  Remove when new growth appears in the spring.
  • October, NOVEMBER and March are the three best months for planting azaleas, rhododendron, camellia and other hardy broad leafed evergreens.
  • Apply mulch around hosta as the foliage begins to turn yellow.
  • Fall flowers, like sedum and chrysanthemum, should be dead-headed before the first killing frost.
  • Water perennial primrose deeply, when rains are scarce.  Cover plants with a one inch layer of organic mulch; (fir boughs in colder areas) to protect from severe wind and weather.

Trees, Shrubs and Groundcovers

  • If you are an early Christmas tree shopper looking for a live tree for the holidays, be sure to select a tree that will survive in your climate and soil.  In Virginia, white pine (Pinus strobus), Norway spruce (Picea alies), and blue spruce (Picea pungens) are excellent choices for live Christmas trees that can also be planted outdoors after the holidays.
  • If you are planning on having a live, balled and burlapped Christmas tree, dig a planting hole now before the ground freezes.  Fill the hole with straw or hay to keep it from freezing.  Store the soil in a garage or shed so you will have workable soil when you need it for planting the tree.
  • Check guy wires around newly planted trees to be sure hose sections still cover the supporting wires or ropes so they do not damage the trunks in windy weather.
  • Continue deep watering of evergreens until freezing weather occurs.
  • Cut away suckers from the base of lilacs, forsythia, and crape myrtle.
  • Erect wind breaks to protect newly planted evergreens, especially tender, broad-leaf types, such as Japanese holly and camellia.
  • Roots of woody ornamentals used as container plants may be killed if soil temperatures get very cold.  Among the least hardy are aucuba, English boxwood, camellia, pampas grass, bearberry, cotoneaster, English holly, Japanese holly, star magnolia, and nandina.  Their roots are killed when the soil temperature is 20 to 25 degrees F.
  • Fertilize wisteria after leaves have fallen to avoid excess top growth and lack of bloom.
  • Inspect trees and shrubs for bagworm capsules and the silvery egg masses of tent caterpillars.  Remove and destroy them to reduce next year's pest population.
  • Protect the roots of azaleas and rhododendrons with a heavy mulch of organic materials, such as oak leaves, wood chips, or pine needles.
  • If there is any evidence of scale on trees and shrubs, spray with dormant oil in late fall and again in early spring.
  • Where circumstances necessitate very late planting of trees and shrubs, remember to mulch the area heavily to keep the ground thawed so roots can become established.
  • Remove all mummified fruit from fruit trees and rake up and destroy those on the ground.  Also, rake and dispose of apple and cherry leaves.  Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestation of insects and diseases the following season.


  • ​Be sure not to store apples or pears with vegetables.  The fruits give off ethylene gas which speeds up the breakdown of vegetables and will cause them to develop off flavors.
  • Cut down faded asparagus foliage and compost or burn it.  Mulch beds with chopped leaves to protect crowns over the winter.
  • Mulch late-maturing carrots to continue harvesting them into the winter months.
  • Feed rhubarb plants with one inch of organic compost.  Remove leaves after they are killed by frost then mulch roots with straw.
  • Dig up winter cabbages.  Cut off stumps and place their heads on shelves in a dry, airy shed.
  • Clear old runner bean stems and leaves and place on a compost heap.
  • Protect late cauliflower from frost by bending one or two leaves over the curds.
  • Harvest leeks using a garden fork to dig them up.  Trim off roots and remove soil.
  • Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts as buttons become firm.
  • Don't be tempted to retain potato tubers for replanting next year.  They are very likely to be infected by viruses and will not produce a good crop.


  • If you are planning to lay newspaper as mulch in the spring, glue them end to end this winter and store them as rolls.  When needed, the paper mulch unrolls easily and won't be lifted by the wind before it can be anchored.
  • Try using household rubber gloves with a cloth lining or lightweight pair of gloves under them during cold, wet weather for all by the roughest yard work.  They don't absorb moisture, and they insulate your fingers from the cold better than cloth gloves, especially when it's wet out.
  • Keep an eye out for spider mites on your houseplants; they thrive in dry air.  At the first sign of any insect infestation, isolate your plant.  Several thorough washings with plain water may bring them under control.  If not, apply an appropriate insecticide and follow label instructions.
  • Check house gutters for fallen leaves, needles, and twigs.  Heavy, fall rains will quickly overflow clogged gutters, possibly damaging foundation plants below them.
  • Keep the compost heap moist to aid in the decay process.  Turn the pile to mix in all late, fall additions.  Add fertilizer residues from nearly empty bags onto the pile and mix.
  • Earthworms must remain below the frost line to survive.  Mulch piled on top of soil raises the frost line.  If you want earthworms to help break down organic matter in the upper soil layers, mulch deeply.  If you need the subsoil aerated, leave the surface mulch thin.  The worms will burrow downward to stay warm.
  • Keep your shears and loppers in good working order.  Wipe them with a rag dipped in paint thinner to remove sticky resins.  Sharpen and oil thoroughly.
  • To clean garden tools, put warm water and a tablespoon of dishwasher detergent into a bucket.  The detergent helps detach soil clumps from metal blades.  When clean and dry, use a broad file to sharpen shovels and hoes for next season.
  • Clean power tools of all plant material and dirt.  Replace worn spark plugs, oil all necessary parts, and sharpen blades.  Store all tools in their proper place indoors, never outdoors where they will rust over the winter.
  • Tools sharpened on a power grinder heat up and lose their tempering, making the metal prone to breaking.  To make your tools last longer, get a broad file and learn the art of blade sharpening this winter.
  • Rinse pesticide spray equipment after each use and before winter storage.  Add water and several drops of detergent to fill the spray tank 1/10th full.  Shake the tank, and spray the water over the area where the chemical was just applied.  Caution:  Rinsing will not remove herbicides from sprayers.  A separate sprayer MUST be used to apply herbicides to prevent the residue from killing plants when pesticides or other chemicals are applied.
  • ​As soon as seed flats are emptied of fall transplants, wash and sterilize them before storage so they are ready in the spring.
  • Order seed catalogs now for garden planning in January.  For variety, consider companies that specialize in old and rare varieties or wild flowers.
  • Bring out the bird feeders and stock them with bird seed for the birds.  Remember to provide fresh water for them too.

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