Ask the Gardener
Read previous Q&As, browse by category, and ask your gardening question now!Check it out!
I think of November as the quiet month. The weather can be cold and cloudy and we sometimes spend more time looking out into our gardens than working in them daily. This quiet time is perfect for planning the coming year. It may be quiet, but it is a busy month.
In the vegetable garden
Depending on the weather, you may still be harvesting lettuce and kale from your garden. If you haven't planted your garlic yet, get it in the ground quickly for harvesting next summer. November is a great time to add soil amendments to your garden. You can incorporate them now or apply them to the surface and wait until spring to cultivate them into the soil. I like to remove any cool-season weeds that have popped up and rake the surface smooth because I think it makes my gardens look neat and tidy going into winter.
Fall planting in full swing
Trees and shrubs are planted most successfully in our area during October and November. However, there are a few varieties we call "sensitive plants" that should not be planted past the end of October. After that point, wait until spring—March 1—to plant them. Among these sensitive plants are crape myrtles, laurels, Leucothoe, hybrid hollies, Southern magnolia, Cleyera, nandina, and rhododendron. These typically Southern plants perform wonderfully in our area once established, but cannot handle a hard Kentucky winter when they're not fully established. As with most areas of gardening, research and experience are your best tools.
There is still time to plant the hardy, spring-flowering bulbs like crocus, hyacinths, and daffodils, but tulips need to be in the ground by Thanksgiving. If you like to plant pansies, plant them as early as possible. The later in November they are planted, the more likely they will be injured by winter temperatures. Establishing pansies before winter is critical for successful overwintering.
Hard-to-outsmart squirrels continue to be big pests for some newly planted bulbs, even in November. Your best defense is in numbers: plant more bulbs than necessary and/or plant lots of different bulbs in different locations. Planting larger bulbs instead of smaller ones can also be helpful. Smaller bulbs are more at risk because they are easier for squirrels to dig up. Mulch and water your bulbs right after planting and use a fertilizer with blood meal, which is a natural repellant.
Landscape bed cleanup
Continue removing leaves from your landscape beds. Many perennials don't like a wet winter and a pile of wet leaves on top of them can just make it worse and end up killing them. Preserve the mulch in the beds by using a blower to blow the leaves out of them and onto the lawn. Then, pass over them with your mower and bagger to chop them up and easily bag them. Try to have all your landscape beds leaf-free going into January. This not only looks better in the winter, but it lets you focus on other chores in late winter instead of picking up cold, wet leaves.
Yes, more mowing
Continue to mow as long as the grass is still growing or there are leaves on the lawn to be removed. I get my mower out in November and even December to pass over my lawn with the bagger to pick up all the leaf debris. Of course, I have had neighbors who commented that "mowing season is over." What they don't know is that the mower is a multifunction tool—it easily can cut back large beds of liriope ground cover and it is great for quick leaf pickup. The chopped-up leaves and debris take up less space, which cuts down on yard waste bags.
With the holidays just around the corner, it is time for forcing amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus for our indoor enjoyment. Shop early for the best selection and consider giving a potted amaryllis bulb ready to be placed in a windowsill as a hostess gift. When it's cold outside, it is so refreshing to see beautiful tropical plants growing inside.