With the arrival of November and the end of daylight savings, the time to complete outdoor gardening activities is lessened with each passing day. Fortunately, there is not a lot of activity going on in our landscapes and gardens, but there are a few items you can do to keep your gardens growing great.
This is a great time to be planting new trees and shrubs in your landscape. The roots will continue to grow, while the tops remain dormant until next spring, giving the plant many months of ideal conditions to become better established before stressful summer conditions return. However, hold off on doing major pruning until plants go fully dormant after a couple of growth-ending hard freezes. That would also be the time to begin the process of digging and moving shrubs to new locations in the landscape.
Many warm-season annual flowers have already begun their transition from beautiful to ugly. The term “annual” means that these plants only last for a growing season, and we generally divide growing seasons into warm and cool. So, it is time to rip out the ugly, and replace with annuals that grow and perform their best during the cooler times of the year.
Pansies are the top choice for cool season bedding plants. They’re hardy, bloom over a very long season, and come in a wide array of colors. Miniature pansies, or violas are ideal for smaller beds that are viewed up-close. You can combine pansies with spring bulbs, plant them in front of hedges, or plant them in a large drift in strategically placed pockets for increased visual impact. They’ll be at their best in early spring, with a scattering of flowers in the winter
Other bedding plants you can plant now include snapdragons, calendula, pinks, dianthus, sweet William, candytuft, diascia (twinspur), linaria and erysimum (wallflower). Some edibles that double duty as ornamentals include parsley, ornamental kale, cabbage, mustard, and Swiss chard.
Some spring wildflowers can still be sown from seed in early November, including bluebonnets, Drummond phlox, rudbeckia and coreopis. Sow into a bare, prepared soil, very lightly cover with soil, and water immediately to initiate germination. If you plan on sowing into an area covered with grass or weeds, first cut the vegetation very short, then rake up as much as you can, so seeds can make it to the exposed soil.
Did you buy some bulbs this fall? Tulips and Dutch hyacinths should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 45 to 60 days before planting, but Narcissus and daffodils need no artificial chilling and should be planted right away.
Our first freeze of the year happens around mid-November, so you should be preparing to move tender houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. Give them a thorough drenching of water to make sure there are no dry spots in the soil, and then a shot of fertilizer. Check them for insects, slugs, snails, lizards, even snakes, before moving them inside. Most houseplants will do best indoors if you place them in a room with lots of windows where they can receive bright light.
Tree leaves are beginning to fall and in the early stages, you can just mow them right into the lawn. Shredding them with a mulching mower will help them break down quickly. Mow regularly, and, depending on the number and type of trees in your yard, you may not have to rake excess leaves but once or maybe twice when the bulk of the leaves drop and cover the ground. Those raked leaves, along with clippings from the grass, make excellent composting components, so don’t waste free soil conditioner by bagging leaves for curbside garbage pickup.
As you are cleaning up your summer vegetable garden, check the roots of tomatoes and peppers for swollen nodules, a sign of nematodes. You can sow Elbon rye as a cover crop to not only provide a great source of “green manure” to enrich the soil, but Elbon rye also acts as a trap crop for nematodes, reducing (not eliminating) their population for next year. Do not plant the same type of vegetable in the same ground year after year to help avoid the buildup of plant pests.