November Garden Chores



Greetings Gardeners!

How did it get to be mid-November already?  While the middle of the country is blanketed in snow and single digit temperatures, we are still enjoying higher daytime temperatures and it’s shirt weather.  Lucky us!  (Although we can all agree it’s time for the rains, seriously.)  Temperate as it is, we are in the homestretch of autumn now.  The night arrives promptly around 5, and gardens are all but forgotten for the moment.

Maybe you are different than I am, but the past month’s power outages and the general sense of unease in our community did not lead me to blissful garden productivity (but oh how I wish it did!).  Instead, it’s mid-November and I’m finally putting the garden to bed for the season.  The farmer in me thinks this is too late!  But the gardener in me trusts that things happen in whatever time they can.  After all, your garden is here to be a source of joy and nourishment for your family- why feel guilt?

So, if you’re anything like me- get out those trusty gloves, find your digging fork and pruners and spend some time in the garden this weekend.  As it turns out, there’s still work to do.


Here are a few things to be thinking about in the garden right now:

  • Planting garlic!  (It’s not too late- really!  But do it soon!) Edy wrote a great guide to get you started.  Want the quick version? Get soil loose and add some compost, plant individual cloves of garlic (DO NOT PEEL BEFOREHAND), cover them up, be proud of yourself.
  • Pulling up old plants and cutting back perennials (selectively).  Definitely pull up tomatoes and anything that is covered in powdery mildew.  Consider leaving some plants like flowers that have gone to seed for the birds.  Dead stalks provide habitat for all sorts of bugs and animals- so consider leaving some for them.  It definitely doesn’t look as tidy as mulched ground or cover crop but if anyone asks you why your garden looks so messy, tell them you are “building native pollinator habitat.”
  • Chop and drop.  An alternative to pulling plants up is to chop them down in place into small pieces, put compost on top and then leaves or straw on that.  (It’s basically a version of sheetmulching without the sheet.)
  • Dividing and moving perennial plants (more on this in a future post)
  • Mulching- you can use straw or leaves to cover exposed bare ground- protect the soil!
  • Getting new ground sheet mulched (if you are expanding).
  • Planting wildflower seeds (wait to spread until right before we have some rain the forecast or they will just be bird lunch!)
  • Tending to plants that will overwinter.  Adding a little compost and mulch is a nice way to “tuck in” perennial or long season plants still growing.
  • Giving your fruit trees some additional woodchip mulch
  • Don’t worry about cover cropping!  It’s too late for that now, and (in my opinion) it’s not really something that works well at garden scale anyway.
  • Imagine all the great stuff you are going to grow next season!  The seed catalogues are already on the way.  Perfect reading for the long nights ahead.

Wow, writing that list made me realize I have more work to do!  Till next time, take care of your garden and it will take care of you.