November in the Garden – Well, here we are in November, halfway through Fall and the weather has been spectacular. They say the rains are coming but the weather was still toasty as of yesterday. I like this time of year because it signals the start of a winter vegetable garden and maybe it will soon, but your guess is as good as mine! Having said that, everybody below has a caveat; that is, we need some cooler weather so use your judgement on these suggestions.
If you have a lawn, this is a good time to overseed your Bermuda lawns with winter rye grass. Mow down your lawn very low and spread seed. Keep moist until seeds start to germinate. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Maybe this is a good time to think about taking some lawn out and planting more interesting, drought-tolerant plants. Hint, hint! 🙂
It is important to rake out old mulch and dead leaves around bushes and shrubs so as not to encourage disease and pests in the coming months. Mulch the plants with manure and compost, remembering to keep away from the trunks of your plants so they can breathe.
If you have not planted your spring bulbs, it is definitely time to get them in the ground.
November is still a great month to get plants in the ground for a beautiful spring flowering. Wildflower and nasturtiums seeds need to be planted now. Wildflowers need full sun but don’t let their planting bed dry out or you will lose them. Nasturtiums are fast growers and can tolerate sun or part-shade. They re-seed prolifically and are spectacular on slopes, covering the ground in masses and in salads!
This is also the ideal time of the year to plant native and drought-tolerant shrubs in your yard. Also, think drought-tolerant ground covers such as gazania, African daisies, plumbago, lantana or ivy. The cooler temperatures allow the plants to get established before subjecting them to the heat of summer. When you plant, make sure to water thoroughly after planting (about 10 gallons for a 1 gallon plant) to ensure there are no air pockets in the dirt and to give them one good soaking to prevent too much shock. Do not fertilize natives because it encourages them to grow too fast, making them unstable. Remember, they are native plants and did just fine without fertilizer before we came along!
This is not a good time to re-pot succulents; better to wait until spring or summer, but if you absolutely have to, then add perlite or other good drainage material to the soil to make sure the new plantings dry out so they don’t rot.
Tropicals and sub-tropicals are blooming now and looking nice. Now is the time for looking at tropicals and sub-tropicals, not planting. Wait until springtime for that.
Flowers From Seeds: Alyssum, Ageratum, Baby’s breath, Calendula, California poppy, Carnation, Cineraria, Clarkia, Columbine, Delphinium, English daisy, Forget-me-not, Foxglove, Gaillardia, Godetia, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Linaria, Lobelia, Mignonette, Painted tongue, Pansy, Phlox, Scabiosa, Schizanthus, Shasta daisy, Snapdragon, Stock, Sweet pea (bush), Viola, Wildflowers
Flowers From Bedding Plants: Calendula, Columbine, Coral bells, English daisy, English primrose, Fairy primrose, Foxglove, Iceland poppy, Pansy, Snapdragon, Stock, Sweet pea (bush), Viola
Vegetables: Artichokes, Arugula, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Endive, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce (head & leaf), Onions, Peas, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Swiss chard, Turnips
Take a look at your trees and get some trimming done if needed. When the ground is really wet and the wind is blowing hard, trees of all sizes can be uprooted so it is important to open them up so the air can blow through them in windy conditions. Find a qualified tree trimmer to do this job. Don’t forget to stake your small trees, but not too tightly, so they can bend a little with the wind and develop strong trunks.
Prune and shape shrubs with berries, such as pyracantha and holly. Pyracantha is a beast with all those thorns, but when the berries are in full regalia, what a beautiful plant!
Prune roses lightly to remove the long, bloomed-out canes, but save hard pruning until January, when plants are fully dormant. Severe pruning now will encourage new growth that will freeze with the cold, wasting good plant energy.
Resist the temptation to prune your hydrangeas now. They aren’t looking so great but they bloom on one year old stems, so pruning would disrupt the blooming process.
Chrysanthemums: After they finish flowering, cut back chrysanthemums leaving 6-inch stems. They will begin to grow again next March. If you’ve had good luck with your chrysanthemums in the ground, then you can lift old clumps and divide them.
As the days grow shorter and cooler, it is important to do your watering in the morning to so the plants have all day to dry off, and standing water can percolate down.
This is a good time to look over your watering system. We can start cutting back on watering our plants, especially if it rains, but the occasional Santa Ana weather can do a lot of damage if new plants and seeds dry out. We don’t have to be quite so hyper-vigilant like last month, but do pay attention if we have hot weather.
With the weather cooling down, our humidity can really drop, too, so make sure your roses are getting the water they need. Soak them twice a week with 1” of water. Mulching your roses will keep the soil at a more constant temp and will keep fungus spores from splashing up onto your rose bushes.
Succulents do best in the cold months if they are kept on the dry side, but they still need occasional watering when they look shriveled and stressed. Cacti and succulents in pots need watering more frequently but don’t over-do because wet and cold conditions can quickly kill these plants. Try to water in the morning on warmer days so moisture has evaporated off the plant by nightfall. Waterlogged succulents can die if the weather gets cold enough to freeze because it damages the fleshy cell structure of the plants. If we are expecting rain, really cold weather or possible frost, try to move your succulents to protected areas so they don’t get waterlogged or frost-bitten. One hail storm can do a lot of damage to succulent leaves, marring your plant’s skin. That’s a bummer, especially come flower show time if you planning to enter your plants.
When it starts raining, please turn off your sprinklers!!!!!
As we go into our cold months, most plants are going into a resting time. A general rule of thumb regarding fertilizing plants now is be mindful of fertilizers containing too much nitrogen which encourages new, tender growth that will damage easily in the colder weather.
Don’t fertilize wildflowers, tropicals, roses, bromiliads, fuchsia, dahlias, epiphyllum, or warm season lawns.
Fertilize your cool-season plants and lawns. Feed your overwintering plants with a no-nitrogen, high-phosphorus, high-potassium fertilizer to help them become cold-hardy.
This will be the last month until spring to fertilizer the ferns in your garden.
If you have pink hydrangeas and want to try to color them blue or lavender, apply aluminum sulfate now. This won’t work on white hydrangeas, only the pink ones.
Pest & Disease Control
As the weather cools down, we won’t have as many pest problems, but keep an eye out for any problems that might crop up. Raking out from under shrubs and bushes cleans out the beds and cuts down on the possibility of disease and pests in the coming months. A new layer of mulch and worm castings will go a long way in keeping your plants strong, and problems to a minimum.
For your deciduous fruit trees, after the leaves fall off, you will want to spray peach and nectarine trees with lime sulfur to control peach leaf curl.
Snails and slugs, snails and slugs, snails and slugs….. I have done a really good job of removing their hidey holes, but every time it rains I find a whole new herd of these little chompers. Be vigilant!!!
Dahlias – Now through December, withhold water and fertilizer to let the plants die back and go dormant. Once the plant has dried to brown about 12 inches above ground, cut the stalk. You can leave dahlia tubers in the ground to harden off as long as there is good drainage. If not, get the tubers out of the ground before the rains set in. If you do lift the tubers, rinse off the dirt, let dry and store in a cool, dry place. Jennifer Gitts-Eubank of Swan Island Dahlias in Oregon recommends storing in slightly damp peat moss in newspaper lined boxes. Vermiculite can be used in place of peat moss, also moistened. A good rule of thumb is 1 to 2 cups of water per 5-gallon bucket of vermiculite. If you want to divide your tubers, treat the cut area with soil sulphur, and store as above. Don’t forget to tag your tubers so you know what’s what when planting time comes around!
The rains are coming so now is the time to prepare your yard and your plants. Clean out your rain gutters and downspouts so heavy rains don’t overflow and flood. Empty out any containers that fill up with the rains (use the water in your garden!!!!) and turn them over or put lids on so you don’t create breeding grounds for mosquitos. If you know where water runs off your roof so you can collect it when the rains start falling again, keep your containers handy for placement when the time comes. Every little bit helps!
Credit where credit is due: This monthly garden chores compilation comes from a lot of resources, past and present, including: Sunset Magazine, Union-Tribune, San Diego Floral Association, San Diego Horticulture Society, San Diego Home & Garden, Anderson’s La Costa Nursery, miscellaneous tidbits found on the web, in the library, from fellow gardeners, and personal experience in the garden.