As fall turns to winter, and freezing temperatures set in, November is a quieter time in the four-season garden. It’s a time to get caught up on some nice-to-be-done tasks, craft from the garden, and prepare for the growing season ahead.
If you like a written plan, grab the Essential Fall Garden Checklist here.
November Garden Tasks
These are examples of tasks I like to do in my cold-climate garden (zone 6). Every garden is different, and we each adapt based on climate, growing zone and conditions, the plant species, challenges, and time and resources available. Please take the inspiration and run/grow with it.
Here in southwestern Ontario, Canada, November is hard to predict. Temperatures are coolers, but the days may still be balmy. There will be night frosts, but who knows if it will snow? You never know!
Monthly Garden Tasks
The best thing you can do for your fall garden is leave the ‘mess’ as it is. Unless diseased, invasive, or pest-infested, all that old plant growth from summer-flowering perennials, shrubs, vines, fall leaves, decomposing branches, and more, is vital food and habitat for all of the living things in our gardens and environment. Most birds, bees, butterflies, insects, mammals live amongst us all year-round. They need this stuff to live. We need them to survive.
- Finish up October tasks including mulching, weeding, garden bed prep, composting, cleaning garden tools, turning off outdoor water faucets, draining garden hose.
- Check on planted containers in storage. Keep watered and mouse-proof.
- Freezing temperatures? Add homemade suet to bird feeders and provide fresh, running water.
- Maintain winter vegetable garden. Water and air as needed.
- Make note of trees that will need late winter pruning.
- Harvest and sow milkweed seeds.
- Keep turning the compost pile 2x week until it freezes up, then switch to winter composter.
- Enclose covered patio with vinyl sheeting. This stuff works very nicely!
- Maintain pond pump. Prepare pond for winter.
- Warmer zones may still be able to plant trees if you don’t get hard frosts yet.
- Once leaves have dropped and you can see what’s what, it’s a good time to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches.
- Set up winter bird feeding stations. Clean, repair, store breakable feeders.
- If temperatures are consistently cold, add homemade suet to bird feeders and provide fresh, running water.
- Keep bird feeders and water feeders clean and filled.
- Force (grow) indoor flowering bulbs including paperwhites, amaryllis, and more.
- Miss your garden already? You can grow all sorts of vegetables indoors. And houseplants, of course.
- Here’s an guide to year-round Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus care and reblooming.
- And, don’t forget you can keep poinsettia all year-round too.
- Order seed catalogues or browse online. Here’s a directory of seed companies in Canada and the United States.
- Order bare-roots plants including asparagus and cane fruits (they are shipped at planting time).
- Order seeds for indoor sowing. Get seed starting mix and organic container mix while shops have it in stock.
- Browse these recommended books. You might put some on your gift wish list.
You may not know it by the name phenology, but you certainly know what it is. Phenology is the science of observing annual first events in nature. When flower buds open. When peepers first peep. When bees appear. When migrations arrive. When bulbs pop up. The list is endless.
Seasonal changes prompt natural responses in the plant and animal kingdoms. It is interesting (and important, in this era of climate change) to note these events and compare year over year.
Late Autumn Phenological Events
Here’s a few examples.
- Leaf drop. Deciduous trees may now be bare.
- Birds eat seeds from old plants, as insect food sources are sparser.
- Migrating birds stop by on their way south.
- Pond fish become dormant when temperature drops.
- Insects are tucked away in their winter hiding spots.
- Squirrels and chipmunks elbow their way to the bird feeder. They probably looking plumper now.
- Frosty nights and snow flurries.
Want a Checklist?
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛