Imagine going out this Thanksgiving into your garden and harvesting fresh carrots for Turkey dinner or making fresh leek and potato soup right from your own garden beds. If you have been following the calendar you could still be harvesting these vegetables and more. And if you want and amazing garden next spring continue following along as we get a jump-start on next years garden this November. This is an ideal time to prepare the soil and improve it’s structure and fertility. It is best to add organic matter like peat moss and organic fertilizers now so that it has time to coalesce with the soil and allows the soil’s microorganisms time to work their magic. This is also a good time to plant cover crops. Cover crops are plants grown specifically to turn back into the soil and improve its structure. Nitrogen fixing plants like fava beans and Austrian field peas will grab valuable nitrogen from the atmosphere (Nitrogen is the gas found in largest quantities in the atmosphere) and then release it back to next years plants as it breaks down in the soil. So keep reading and let’s get busy. Don’t let this most valuable time in the garden slip past you.
- Collect seeds of non-hybrid flowers. Many annual flowers and vegetables can be collected, cleaned from chaff or pulp, dried, and stored in airtight container in a cool location. They can then be planted next season. Hybrids can be collected but they may not have the same characteristics as their parents. Perennials, trees and shrubs can be collected but may require a moist prechilling (stratification) before they will germinate.
- Lift tender bulbs like Dahlias and Gladioulus if you know they won’t overwinter in your garden.
- Plant pansies outdoors now and enjoy the flowers until late spring. Mound soil or leaves around the base of hybrid teas and other grafted roses to protect the graft union from frost.
- Prune rampant suckers from the base of lilacs which will take away from next years bloom.
- Prepare and plant wildflower bed and broadcast seeds. This can be done in the spring as well but you can get a head start now and focus on other tasks come spring.
- Enjoy the fall blooming Sasanqua camelias some of which are fragrant.
- Still time to plant flowering bulbs and get late season discounts.
- Prepare open beds in the flower and vegetable garden with organic matter and organic fertilizers. Chopped leaves, peat moss or compost can be added now to improve the soil’s humus levels. This improves the structure, drainage and nutrient holding capacity of your soil. For established beds work in organic matter and fertilizers around the plants and cultivate them into the to few inches of soil.
- An inexpensive way to add more organic matter and nutrients to the soil is through the use of cover crops on beds that are fallow for the winter. These cover crops will fix valuable nitrogen into the soil and can be planted this fall: Austrian field peas (Lathyrus hirsutus), crimson clover(Trifolium incarnatum), fava beans (Vicia faba), and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa). They will also slow down the leaching of nutrients caused by winter rains.
- Clean tools for storage. Remove soil with a brush (coconut fiber, nylon or a metal brush) and then remove any rust with steel wool. Sharpen tools with appropriate files or sharpeners. Then wipe with a clean rag and then oil exposed metal with special tool oil (Felco makes a spray on type) or machine shop oil. If you don’t plan on using the mower this winter bring your mower in to your local dealer for winterizing. Next spring you will have a clean running mower with sharpen and adjust blades. You will also avoid the wait in the spring when most people bring them in for service.
- Mow lawn to 1.5 to 2 inches for the winter This keeps the lawn healthy and prevents the lawn from matting down.
- Keep leaves and compost or make a dedicated leaf mold pile for future mulch unless they are from allelopathic trees (producing chemicals that inhibit other species growth) like the genera Juglans (e.g. Black Walnut or Aesculus (e.g. Horse Chestnut).
- Drain and clean man made pools and ponds. Remove tropical plants and store hardy lilies.
- Get out with hoe and remove cool weather weeds like shotweed that germinated during the October rains.
- Test soil for pH and apply limestone or wood ash accordingly. It takes time for these products to react with the soil and affect the pH. Fall application will ensure the pH is adjusted by spring.
- Very last call for planting trees and shrubs including woody fruiting plants.
- All frost sensitive plants should now be safely indoors indoors for the season.
- Take cuttings of African violets and cape primrose to replace aging plants.
- Plant Amaryllis bulbs to bloom for Christmas. Choose a pot that is an inch or two larger than the diameter of the bulb and leave the top half of the bulb exposed above the soil line.
- Plant paperwhite narcissus in at two week intervals. Grow at least 6 to a pot for maximum bloom effect. Calla Lilies and begonias can also be started.
- For additional interesting indoor flowers plant annuals like dwarf marigolds, nasturtiums in sunny windows or greenhouses.
- In sunny windows (6 hours sun a day) grow herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, parlsey, thyme and chives.
- Slow down watering and fertilization of indoor plants.
- Insect Alert
Most insects have thrown in the towel for the season. But it is still a good idea to keep your insect eating bird friends around and healthy. This is a good time to put out a suet feeder. This will bring the beautiful birds closer to view and also keep them active in your garden where they will continue patrolling for insects that may be overwintering somewhere in your garden.
- Diseases alert
Remember if you have had any disease problems to do a thorough job of removing infected plant material from the garden now. If you remove the source of infectious fungi and bacteria you will break the cycle of reinfection next year.
Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit
- Clean out old plants and compost including Asparagus beds as the fronds fade. Harvest Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, radishes, peas, parsnips, lettuce, leeks, potatoes, kale, collards, celery, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
- Prepare beds for early plantings of peas this allows for an earlier planting in the spring before the soil dries out enough to be worked.
- Plant Fava beans (cover crops can double as a source of beans for the table), garlic, onions, rhubarb and artichokes.
- Prune the fruiting top sections of evergreen raspberries once they finish producing fruit and leave the lower section of branch for next years early crop. Other raspberries can be topped off at 5 feet and staked.
- Store your bounty by freezing canning or hanging in a cool garage.