The Gardener's November Calendar

Every year I like to play this game called, “Winter isn’t coming yet.” 

It’s a game of procrastination. How much can I put off planting until my fingers are so frozen that I can’t dig anymore holes for perennials and bulbs?  

There always seems to be a rush of tasks that were put off all summer. Add to that last-minute purchases from plant and bulb sales, the end of Daylight Savings Time, and falling temperatures – and, well, it can get pretty entertaining — for those watching from their windows anyway. 

But this year, I totally lost the game because two days ago we had our first snowfall of the season that dropped five inches of snow. Today it is supposed to get to 47 degrees Fahrenheit and I'm hoping to get the majority of my spring bulbs officially planted. 

Even though we are at mid-month, here are some of the garden chores to focus on this month: 
  • Garden clean-upFall cleanup doesn’t mean that you need to remove every fallen leaf from the property. I recently wrote about how it has changed for me over the years, and how it is especially important to leave some plants standing to help native pollinators overwinter. Other ideas? Pile fallen leaves into raised beds to help improve the soil over the winter. Many native butterflies and moths will hibernate in fallen leaves over the winter as well, so keeping as many on your property as possible is really beneficial in the long run. If you do end up cutting back some perennials, leave those hollow stems on top of compost pile or along the back fence for insects to hibernate in. 
  • It’s time to sow milkweed. If you plan to sow milkweed seeds outdoors for plants next spring, scatter those seeds so they can receive the stratification they need over the winter. For more milkweed growing tips, read more here.
  • Harvest dahlias. After the first frost hits, its time to dig these tubers up. I don't have a basement to store my dahlias, and my garage is detached and gets too cold to store them successfully over the winter. Last year, after the frost killed the plants, I dug up my tubers, let the dry dirt fall off, and then stored them in a cardboard box by my front door for the entire winter. I had a 95% success rate of the tubers growing again this year. Periodically, over the winter, I would check to see if the tubers were shriveling up, and if they were, I'd mist them with a little water. Read more about ways you can store dahlias from my interview with the Dahlia Man of Newport, Rhode Island. (And while you are at it, harvest caladiums, glads and cannas, too.) 
  • One final haircut. Give the lawn one final mowing, taking with it the leaves. By doing this, they will decompose on top of the lawn, providing nutrients to the soil.
  • Spring bulbs! As long as the ground isn't frozen, plant plant plant!
  • Protect roses. Roses bloom on new wood, and one way to ensure they make it through the winter is by mounding soil up around the base of the rose, which protects the canes from temperature fluctuations.
  • Empty out containers. Terra cotta, ceramic and concrete containers can crack if you leave soil in them during the winter. You can reuse the soil by putting it in your raised beds.
  • Label plants before they go dormant. Order permanent tags, such as those from Plants MapI ordered tags for some of my hellebores and shrubs two years ago and they still look brand new.  
  • Plant an amaryllis bulb or paper whites bulbs to keep flowers blooming indoorsNow is the time to start staggering bulbs for blooms this holiday. Paper whites can bloom as soon as three weeks after they are planted, so if you want to prolong the display, plant a new batch every few weeks.  Same goes for amaryllis bulbs as well.
  • Clean bird feeders. If you haven’t already, clean your feeders before filling them with new suet and seed for the winter season.
  • Decorate for the season. Need some decorating ideas for the upcoming holiday season? Look to your garden. Check out these ideas.
  • Tree watch. Take stock of any trees that will need winter pruning, such as pear and apple trees.
I garden in Zone 6b of Central Connecticut. Follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram and share with me your gardening tasks and ideas to get you through the month! 


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