University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall Article

GETTING READY FOR WINTER AND OTHER NOVEMBER GARDENING TIPS

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor and
Lisa Halvorsen, Garden Writer

In November we get ready for winter, taking steps to protect plants against ice and chilling winds, including erecting windbreaks around evergreens to help prevent desiccation.  It's also the time to winterize and store garden equipment until the next gardening season.

So it's no surprise that most of November's gardening activities are still taking place outside.  You might start in the garden.  Is it all cleaned up?  Have you removed the debris and added lime to the soil in readiness for planting next spring?  A soil test will tell you how much to add.

If you haven't finished pruning out this year's fruiting canes on your raspberry bushes, do it now. If you wait until spring, the dead canes will serve as reservoirs for disease, increasing the possibility of spur, cane blight, and other diseases.  For blueberries, however, wait until late winter to prune when winter injury can be more easily determined.

For perennials, it is okay to wait until spring to cut them back as long as they are not diseased or have poor foliage.  In fact, you may want to wait, even if you have time to prune them now, as many provide a nice winter effect.

This is also a good time to check labels on perennials to make sure they will last through the winter.  Redo them if necessary.  Edge beds to get ready for spring.  Make sure clay pots and garden statuary are covered or out of the weather for winter.  Otherwise, moisture and freezing may crack them.

Protect evergreens from harsh winter winds by building a simple windscreen.  Position the posts on the sides most prone to winds (generally the west and north) and wrap with burlap.  Don't use plastic as this will heat up, causing the plants to fry on sunny days.  Continue to water
evergreens until the ground freezes.

If you still haven't gotten your bulbs in the ground, do so early in the month or consider putting them in pots to force at 40 degrees F for 12 weeks.  An unheated but nonfreezing cellar or garage is ideal.  Keep the soil moist, not wet.  When bulbs start growing in the spring, generally in March, move to an area with more warmth.

When cleaning out underbrush and unwanted vegetation around your home, think of the wildlife.   Brambles, especially blackberries and raspberries, provide both food and shelter for small animals and birds.

This is a good time to stock up on birdseed for the winter.  Black oil sunflower seed is preferred by most species although you might want to provide niger or thistle seed for finches and suet for woodpeckers and chickadees.  Blue jays (and squirrels, too) like corn--shelled, cracked, or dried on the cob.  Provide a source of water, if possible, preferably a heated bird bath with covered heating element and an automatic shut-off valve or heat cycling on-off switch.  The first protects the birds from injury to their feet, the second will prevent damage to the birdbath if goes dry.  Use a grounded, three pronged outlet to prevent the possibility of electrocution.  Place a flat piece of shale over the heating element to will provide a warm rock for birds to perch on to rest or drink.

Take a few hours to clean, repair, and sharpen your garden tools before putting them away for the season.  Drain the garden hose, roll it up, and store it in the basement or garage.

Using a special additive (available at hardware stores) in the gas tank will help keep moisture out and the gasoline from breaking down as much over winter.  Add a few drops of oil to the cylinder, and change the oil and the spark plugs.  Store pesticides, fertilizers, and other lawn and garden chemicals in a locked cabinet or other high, dry location where they won't freeze.

Indoors, move your houseplants away from exterior doors to protect them from cold blasts when doors are opened.  Group together potted plants to increase humidity, which may be lacking in the colder months.  At night close shades to protect plants from extreme outdoor temperatures.  Or place a folded newspaper between the plants and the glass.

Plan some fun indoor gardening projects with your kids, such as planting a windowsill herb garden or collecting pinecones, seed pods, and unusual twigs to make thanksgiving decorations.  Or build a birdhouse or "plant" a garden using carrot tops, avocado pits, orange seeds, and other kitchen leftovers.

Other activities for November: try bonsai, the oriental art of shaping miniature container-grown trees; clean up rose beds; plant amaryllis and paperwhites for bloom during the December holidays.
 


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