November is generally cold and wet, and a good time to wind down and catch up. But before you wind too far down, there are still some important tasks to get on top of in the garden this time of year. Learn what November gardening chores you should be doing this month to ensure that your garden is ready to live it’s best life next spring.
Happy November! The days are cold and dark and wet, and some areas have already seen snow dust the ground. I really don’t know of many gardeners — myself included — who would willingly go out to work in the dirt now, especially if they could curl up by a nice fire crackling in the hearth instead.
And yet there are many essential tasks that you can and should do this month to prepare for a successful growing season next year. First frost happens this month, though it does tend to vary by a few weeks, and it’s important to always keep an eye on the weather reports! Even though I’d honestly rather be inside reading on these damp and misty days, I know that it’s better to do these things now before the real harsh winter weather sets in.
Here are the most important November gardening chores to get done before the month ends:
Gardening Chores + Tasks List Month-by-Month
Please keep in mind that these are examples of tasks I do in my northwest maritime garden (zone 8). Every garden is different, and you may need to adapt your chores based on climate, growing zone and conditions, among other things.
Please take what I do as inspiration for your own gardening tasks, and grow your own roots with it!
General cleanup of the garden and yard is still one of the most important November gardening chores to do. A couple of years ago, when we were busy selling our house in town, we neglected cleaning up the garden properly here on the farm. The next summer the weeds were so bad we ended up not growing anything! Don’t let that happen to you!
- Weed, weed, weed! Any weeds left in the ground will overwinter and germinate, and will be that much harder to get rid of next year. (Might I suggest that now would be a good time to get out your Red Dragon propane torch and burn them all up? It’s quick and easy and the remains will rot and feed the garden! Winning!)
- Add mulch to exposed garden beds. Any natural material will do: straw, leaves, shredded newspaper, cardboard and compost are all great options and will prevent erosion and compaction.
- Move any potted plants into your garage, greenhouse or other sheltered spot.
- Drain your garden hoses and bring them inside so they don’t crack during cold weather.
- Cover faucets with insulated covers.
- Gather up garden tools and clean them with rubbing alcohol to prevent rust and spreading disease. Store them in a dry spot out of the weather.
- Remove netting, stakes, bean teepees and other temporary supports.
I also want to stress that I’m a big believer in leaving most organic matter where it falls. We leave the fallen leaves and evergreen needles at the base of the trees, and let the perennial and annual plants wither and settle in place. We do this because as long as it’s disease-free, decomposing organic matter will positively contribute to soil structure, as well as insulate roots, prevent erosion and provide essential food and habitat for beneficial insects, fungi and microbes.
In your garden you might have some hardy vegetables that can withstand frost and others that need to come in before the colder weather arrives. Here’s some of the most common cold-hardy and vulnerable vegetables often still left in the ground this time of year:
Cold-tolerant plants // harvest as needed:
- Brussels sprouts
- Lettuce and kale
- Swiss chard
- Winter radishes
Cold-sensitive plants // harvest before frost:
- Squash (if immature or uncured)
If more than a frost threatens, I would go ahead and cover even the cold-tolerant plants with cloches or fleece row covers (this is my favorite kind), just to be on the safe side. Also, if you’re leaving carrots in the ground to harvest throughout the winter (I am this year!) give them a nice, thick mulch with straw to keep their tops from freezing.
Pests and Diseases
November is a great time to root out and prevent pests and diseases from taking hold in your garden.
- Check any remaining crops for yellow leaves, and remove them so they can’t spread grey mold.
- Burn diseased and mildewed leaves, branches and foliage.
- Cover winter cabbages and Brussels sprouts with net to keep birds off of them.
- Remove any rotten fruit that still hangs on your trees, as they’ll spread disease to the branches and next year’s crop.
- Put grease bands around the base of fruit trees to keep insects from climbing them and laying their eggs.
- Check your herbs for mold, root and stem rot.
An easy way to get rid of bugs and other pests that are directly in your garden is to let your chickens and ducks free-range in it during the winter months. They do a great job of eating up all the nasty little bugs that burrow in to overwinter in your soil and under your mulch. Just make sure to remember to block off anything you don’t want the birds to rummage around it though (like your garlic patch!).
Planting and Pruning
I know it’s November, but if you live in a temperate or warmer garden zone like I do (usually zones 7 and up, but as always use your best judgement) then you still have time to plant a few things! Now is a key month to plant bare root fruit trees, while they’re dormant. Throw a nice shovelful of compost into the planting hole and lots of mulch around the base, and your plants should be happy!
Fruit and vegetables to plant out now:
- Fava Beans, early overwintering types
- Rhubarb sets
- Raspberry, marionberry and loganberry canes
- Fruit trees
- Blueberries, currants and gooseberries
- Cover crops
- Garlic cloves (really, do it now if you haven’t yet!)
As for pruning, now is the time to cut your asparagus foliage down to the ground. You’ll also want to start pruning your apple and pear trees, as well as your grapevines and berry bushes, and remove all dead, damaged and diseased branches. These can all actually be pruned at any time during the winter, so if you want to wait until later that’s fine. Don’t prune cherry or plum trees until spring!
Inspect your Root Cellar
OK, I know most of you probably don’t have root cellars — I certainly don’t! But I’m guessing if you garden, you also preserve and store some of what you grow. You should inspect your stored food every month, starting now! Get rid of anything that is starting to show signs of rot or that just isn’t keeping well, and make sure to use the smaller, damaged produce first.
Reading through this, it does sound like a lot to do, but you’ve probably already done most of it earlier! And if your book is really good and the fire really warm and you don’t get around to doing any of these things, you know what? That’s okay! It will all still be there in the spring and nothing truly awful will happen if it’s not done!
What are some of your must-do November gardening chores?
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