In November, I dream of soups and stews, cozy sweaters, and yummy Thanksgiving food! Here in the Northeast (USDA Hardiness Zone 5b), November signals the end of the outdoor growing months and a big end-of-season clean up. The leaves pile up, taunting me that I need to do one final round of chores (and maybe a quick jump in a leaf pile with the kid and dog) before the first frost sets in. Nobody likes the clean up tasks, but with a little elbow grease, you can clean out your garden, protect your plants, and be ready to spring into action for the next growing season. Here are some November gardening tasks and chores to accomplish before Frosty the Snowman finds his corncob pipe and button nose.
Leave the Leaves!
Fallen leaves get a bad rap, but they’re really so helpful to a garden’s ecosystem. It’s good to leave some leaves where they fall because they break down and provide good nutrients for the soil. If the leaves are dried up on the lawn, I like to run a mower through them (without the collecting bag) to shred them. This helps break down the leaf material even faster so it can turn into great leaf mulch and compost, which you can sprinkle over your garden.
Weeds and Pests and Tests (Oh My!)
Weeding is my least favorite thing to do when it comes to gardening, but there’s something so cathartic about clearing out all the weeds at the end of the season. It’s right up there with pulling up wall-to-wall carpeting or peeling off a giant section of wallpaper all in one go. Believe it or not, many weeds are easier to deal with in the fall because their roots are weaker. November is a good time to deadhead weed flowers and pull up anything invasive.
It’s also a good time to keep those pests in check by squashing insect larvae (like viburnum leaf beetles) lingering in leaves and dead plant material. Getting rid of those pests now will give you a leg up on spring pest control.
Another November gardening task is to check your soil. If you’ve had sections of your garden that didn’t do well this past season, now is an ideal time to send out a soil sample for testing.
Fertilize, Water, and Till (before the first snow!)
Last call! Give your perennial fruits and vegetables one last drink/feed before the first big freeze. If your soil is compacted or needs to be supplemented, November is a great month to layer some compost onto the soil and turn it over. You can also correct any pH or acidity issues by adding the necessary supplements into your soil now.
Prune ‘Em If You Got ‘Em
Break out your best Edward Scissorhands impression! November gardening includes lots of pruning. If you have deciduous fruit trees or shrubs, now is the time to cut those babies back a bit. Pruning can look different for each type of fruit, so read up on the best methods for each one.
Clean Tools are Happy Tools
A November gardening task list isn’t complete without a tool clean up! This includes putting away your tomato cages and trellises, bringing the lawnmower in for annual maintenance (or at least draining the gas out or adding stabilizer to the tank), and organizing your tool shed or garage. A little bit of focus and time at the end of your growing season makes you primed and ready to go for the spring.
What’s on your November gardening task list? What have you learned over the years that works best to clean out your garden and yard? Tell me in the comments!