To-Do List - November

by Karen Bodner, MG


Crops like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips should be harvested after at least one frost which will concentrate their sugars. Start seeds for an indoor winter herb garden. You can continue to plant peas through mid-November and radishes, lettuce, and many greens will germinate in soil temps as low as 40 degrees and can be sown directly outside, preferably under cloches -- keeps them cleaner and accelerates growth. If you have space indoors, you might be better off sowing them indoors under lights and transplanting later. Be sure to prepare the beds now, however, and protect with mulch or cloches.

Continue biweekly (half dose) or monthly (regular dose) applications of fish, kelp, and compost tea on your fall and overwintering crops. Rhubarb plants can be divided through December if needed. I found that removing the lower leaves of lettuces that were rotting went a long way towards lowering pest problems, especially slugs-but then so did cloching them so water doesn't splash up in the first place.

Garlic and shallots can still be planted; however, remember there is a direct correlation between the amount of root development, subsequent leaf growth, and finished bulb size. Since the roots develop first, a more vigorous root system present before leaf growth will result in a larger bulb.

If you didn't get around to it yet, mulch your active vegetable beds with some type of organic mulch to about two inches; specifically, asparagus beds, artichoke, and rhubarb plants. When storing root crops in the garden, cover with six to twelve inches of a loose mulch; check a few for insect damage before going to the trouble, and be sure to periodically check produce stored indoors for decay. Remove damaged items found.

Perennials, herbs, and bulbs

Plant primroses and pansies for color through November. After removing weeds, mulch your perennial beds -- shredded leaves are good, and a sprinkling of compost or dairy-washed manure under the leaves would be beneficial. Continue deadheading, and cut back dead or diseased plants or branches, specifically mums, asters, pansies, and primroses. Reduce fertilizer and water applications to houseplants, and in December prepare potting mix for new ones. A mix of one-third soil, one-third sand, and one-third peat moss is standard, but you may want to add some finished compost as well.

Dahlias should be dug this month for storage. If the tops are still growing, cut them back to four inches and leave for ten days before digging. It's still OK to plant spring-blooming bulbs; just remember, the later you plant, the later they'll come up. Wet soil and bulb quality is really the only deterrent to planting bulbs right through December.

After flowering, cut chrysanthemums and asters to about six inches above the ground in November. Cut cannas to the ground and cover with a thick mulch if not digging to store. I haven't lost a canna yet, mulched or unmulched, although they do come up later in severe winters.


Direct sow: hardy perennial and annual seeds, hardwood cuttings: Potentilla, Rosmarius, Salvia; layering: Peonia,

Root cuttings: Japanese anemones, bleeding heart, Echinops, Phlox paniculata and Oriental poppies

Leaf cuttings: begonias.
Trees and shrubs

Greer Gardens people, rhody experts extraordinaire , recommend fertilizing rhody plants in November! This is an exception to the usual rule. I'm using Harold Greer's fertilizer, and he recommends half a cup spread around the roots, a little more for large plants.

Remove suckers from lilacs and other similarly flowering shrubs. Haven't gotten your trees and shrubs in yet? Go right ahead, but be sure to water in well and add a handful of bone meal to the planting hole. Rake and destroy fallen diseased fruits and leaves to minimize disease and pests. Tie up or otherwise support any evergreen branches that are vulnerable to winter weather damage. Specifically, wrap columnar evergreens.

Hydrangeas can be pruned now; however, many gardeners leave the stalks over the winter to protect crown and new growth from harsh weather. Cut back roses to about four feet to prevent wind damage, and any remaining leaves should be removed and the area below the plant cleared of debris. This will go a long way toward disease prevention. Spread fresh mulch around your shrubs now, remembering to leave the trunk clear. Be sure to remove any diseased leaves. If you started cuttings of silver-leafed plants last September, protect them in a frost-free place.


Hardwood cuttings: Abutilon, Arbutus, Berberis, Choisya, Cornus, Cotoneaster, Euonymous, Hypericum, Jasminum, Laburnum, Lonicera, Nandina, Populus, Rhododendron, Ribes, Rosa, Salix, Sarcococca, Spirea, Vinca, Vitis, and Weigela

Semi-mature cuttings: Chamaecyparis; division: Rheum and Syringa (December is better for these guys)

Layering: Actinidia, Erica, Euonymous, Ilex

Root cuttings: rhododendron and camellias

Fruits and nuts

Harvest winter pears (European) before they are ripe, and, after a few weeks of cold storage, bring them indoors for ripening. Place mulch around berries, and tie summer-blooming raspberry canes to wire. Prune to one foot above the wire, or wrap canes around the top wire.

Everbearing raspberries should be cut to the ground or just below fruited section if pruning for a early crop and tied to a wire. When cutting fruited canes down, check for holes at the base of plant for evidence of crown borers. Cut very close to the ground to reveal solid stem and discard any stem pieces that are hollow; they may harbor secondary pest larvae. Berries can also be planted in November; they will develop roots over the winter and may fruit next year. Check spray schedule for appropriate dormant applications.

Lawns and cover crops

Apply lime and check for moss and other symptoms of problems such as rust. Keep an eye out for drainage problem spots during rain in your general yard area. When mowing for the last time this season, leave your grass longer rather than shorter.

Fava beans are a safe bet for cover crops planted this late. Others may grow a bit then linger and die a slow death. It would be good to mulch your unplanted veggie beds with four to six inches of shredded leaves, manure (work in if fresh), or compost.

General gardening

It's important to water all shrubs and young trees now, especially evergreens (18" depth is recommended). Mulch, mulch, mulch! Adding organic matter to recondition the soil is one of the most important things you can do for your garden over the winter. Fall is the best time to check pH, which is at its lowest level, and any lime or sulfur added will break down over the winter and accomplish its job by next season.

Be diligent about garden clean up and disposal; however, as I mentioned last month, you could leave a few selected seedheads for our non-migrating bird friends. Walnut and laurel leaves may have allelopathic properties and should be composted separately or discarded. Just sprouted weed seeds will develop large root systems over the winter and just explode in the spring-better removed now rather than later! Clean and store garden tools and equipment. Browse the new seed catalogs as they come in-spring comes in winter when you envision next year's garden!


Our little soldiers are now entering their winter headquarters which for pupae is usually the soil and for adults is normally in debris on or near the host plant or in other protected areas. The Hymenoptera parasites (ichneumonids and braconids) overwinter as pupae or prepupae in soil, under trash, within prey, or in other protected spots.

Although cultivation can effectively disrupt many soil-dwelling pest populations, it will also destroy any beneficials using those same housing facilities. Having permanent beds surrounding and within a garden will provide undisturbed living quarters for the beneficials, and they won't have to go far for their prey. My garden has had a remarkable reduction of pest problems since I added these insect sanctuaries and a small pond.

Bird baths should be maintained in clean condition until freezing weather threatens, at which point they should be drained. Our feathered friends would love some suet, peanut butter-stuffed pine cones, and other goodies to supplement their decreasing food supply.

Here is our overwintering bug roster.

A =Adult  E =Egg
P =Pupa  L =Larva
 N =Nymph  
 Beneficials are italicized
Underlined stage = extended season
OG=overlapping generations

rove beetles-A/N
western damsel bug-A
big-eyed bug-AE
butterfly caterpillars-A/P
minute pirate bug-A
syrphid fly-P
tachinid parasite-P
wasp parasite-P
predator mite-A (females)
cinnabar moth-P
honey bees-A
alfalfa leafcutting bee-L
predatory nematodes-Infective Juveniles/A

aphids-A/E/N (in mild climate)
onion thrips-A
beet leafhopper-A
carrot rust fly-L (in roots left in field)
symphyllans-A/E/N (cooler temps drive deeper)
green peach aphid-E
wireworm beetle-A/L (2-3 yrs)
cucumber beetle-A (active when mild)
asparagus beetle-A
variegated cutworm-L
western cherry fruit fly-P
apple maggot-P
apple aphids-E (on twigs, suckers, fruit spurs)
codling moth-L
corn earworm-P
imported cabbageworm-P (on host plant)
cabbage looper-P
cabbage maggot-P
cabbage aphid-E
cabbage flea beetle-A
pear sawfly-P
pear psylla-A
peachtree borer-L
peach twig borer-L
root weevil-A/L
spider mites-E
pea weevil-A
greenhouse whiteflies-N
elm leaf beetle-A
bark beetle-A/L
white grubs-A/L(2 yrs)
bean aphids-E
stink bugs-A
pea aphid-E
western flower thrips-A
onion maggots-P
filbert leafroller-E
raspberry crown borer-L(2 yrs)
strawberry and currant aphid-A
holly and soft scale-N
rose leafhopper-E
strawberry crown moth-L (in crown)
western raspberry fruitworm-A
walnut husk fly-P
sod webworm-L
fall webworm-P
boxelder bug-A
seedcorn maggot-P
western potato flea beetle-A
spinach and fruit leafminer-P


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