Just because the year is slowly starting to wind down that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in the yard. In fact November can be a very busy month for the avid Greenthumb. In the fall gardening tends to focus on preparing the yard for its long winter’s nap. Before the snows fall plants need to be tended and tucked cozily into their beds to ensure they’ll return healthy and vibrant in the spring.
For many gardening in the autumn is also an exercise in delayed gratification – as new plants will barely put down roots before going dormant, cleaned and amended beds won’t show their gratitude for months and bulbs disappear underground, making a person wonder if they’ll ever reappear.
Across the country, even with Vancouver Island’s benign climate, November is normally the time when the first real frosts and hard freezes start to occur – as a prelude to the dormancy of the winter. Until snow actually blankets the ground any of the chores you would normally undertake in September or October as still valid this month, at least until the soil actually freezes.
Here are a few things you can do around the yard while the weather remains fairly mild:
Shrubs and Trees
- After the leaves have fallen, carefully prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Vancouver Island typically experiences a short warming period referred to as an Indian Summer, so it’s best to hold off serious pruning until the plants are fully dormant to not negatively impact future new growth.
- While working in the yard remain on the lookout for berry-covered branches for potential use in indoor holiday season decorations.
- Continue planting container-grown ornamental trees and shrubs until the ground freezes.
- Water evergreens until freezing weather, but make sure they don’t get waterlogged.
- When actively pruning keep some of the cuttings handy to root indoors if interested in adding to your deciduous inventory.
- Winterize roses after the first frost, but before the ground freezes. Prune canes back to 3’- 4’ or tie up climbers. Then mound soil at least 12” deep and 12” wide around the stem and crown.
Perennials and Bulbs
- After the leaves turn yellow, gardeners can divide and transplant fall-blooming bulbs such as autumn crocus, colchicum, and sternbergia.
- Continue planting winter and spring-flowering bulbs.
- Check on stored tender bulbs to make sure they’re kept in a cool, dry place – always ensure they are labeled for identification before planting in the spring.
- In frost-free areas, you can keep on planting bulbs that don’t require a winter’s chill, such as anemone, amaryllis, calla lilies, freesia, lilies, and garlic
Annuals and Containers
- Empty and clean out spent annual containers.
- Store clay pots indoors, since they can break in freezing weather.
- Smash up cracked or broken pots to use as drainage in next year’s containers.
These are just a few possible suggestions, each yard and situation is as individual as the gardener who tends them. Whatever the scale and nature of the property, November is a great time to prepare the yard for winter and for the bounty that will emerge in the springtime.