This Month in the Garden – November



Mid-Atlantic Region

November Maintenance Guide

Once the killing frost hits, it’s time to tuck your garden in bed for the winter. Here are some of things we are doing in our Zone 7b gardens.

  • Rake the lawn of leaves, especially if you reseeded your cool season grass, such as tall fescue.  Wet leaves will mat down, smothering newly sprouted grass and reducing needed sunlight.

  • Or don’t rake at all! I mow my leaves with a mulching mower. The bagged, chopped leaves are usually then put on the compost pile. Or they may go directly in a bed; it just depends on what I got going on. In either case, they stay with me and don’t go to the City yard waste center.

  • Removed the leaves from the beds; otherwise they will just drive you crazy when the move around. Rake or blow them into the grass before mowing, then you can put them back in the garden beds.


  • If you didn’t plant annuals in October, there is still time to do so in November. Plant forget-me-nots, pansies, snapdragons, and violas.

  • Adding flowering kale, ornamental cabbage, and mustards add interest to the winter landscape and in container gardens.

  • Cut back elephant ears, gingers and cannas and other spent plants and add them to the compost pile. Be sure to leave any seed heads for the birds to feed over the winter and to add winter interest to the garden.

  • Collect seed. Use for next year, give to friends, share with your garden club.

  • Seeds of larkspur, money plant, Iceland and California poppies can be sown directly.

  • Take a few soil samples and send off for analysis. Check into your area cooperative extension office. When the results are in, amend the soil with organic soil amendments allowing the winter rest to slowly improve the garden soil.

  • Plant trees and shrubs. Now is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. november-11-2008-064

  • For your roses…I like to order or at least decide on my new bare root roses. So I choose them while they’re blooming. You will note when looking at a photograph of the same rose in three books or catalogues, it looks like 3 different roses. As such, I pay attention to the roses of my friend’s, my client’s, and other private and public gardens. I note what does well in our area and get an idea of their shape and color. Also, I learn about the rose’s maintenance needs. Personally, I don’t want to mess with anything fussy. I don’t spray my roses with pesticides; I don’t want anything that will put my butterflies at risk or for that matter, any beneficial insect.

  • After a freeze, it is OK to prune back your roses. It is not necessary to prune now; however the long canes are vulnerable to breaking in high winds or if coated with ice during an ice storm.

  • Azaleas and Camellias do well planted now.

  • Plant your spring blooming bulbs this month. I like pairing daffodils with daylilies. While the foliage of the daff is dying back, the daylily starts to emerge, helping to hide the daffs untidiness until they are ready to be cut back. Healthy bulbs will be firm and show no sighs of mold or decay. Bulb companies such as Brent and Becky’s Bulbs will ship your order at the ideal planting time for your area. If you can’t plant immediately, store them in a cool, dry place until ready to be planted. Plant bulbs pointy end up. If no point is prominent, then look for the remains of a root and plant that end towards the earth. Plant your bulbs in a sunny location – sunny when blooming that is. Thus, they can be planted under deciduous trees. Plant some bulbs in pots for forcing during the winter months.

  • Plant your warm-seasoned lawn with crocus. The Tommies, Crocus tommasinianus, are early blooming crocus that work well planted in the open lawn. The Tommies are nice because they are up in the winter landscape just when they are needed the most and down by the time to start mowing the lawn.

  • Grape hyacinths are a happy bulb. Plant enmasse or in drifts. Many smart gardeners plant a single bulb along with the daffodils to aid as a reminder of where the daffodils were planted.

  • The tiny bulbs of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and snowflakes (Leucojum) planted now, will bring great joy in early winter and early spring, respectively. Any other time of the year, these tiny flowers would be lost in the garden, but in the winter, with little competition, they shine like beacons.

  • Stop and listen to the sights and sounds of fall. The leaf colors, the crows, the crystal blue sky. This is not a time to hurry through life. Savor the moments, pack a picnic, go for a walk, or just sit and watch. Fall color doesn’t last long, enjoy it while you can.

  • Once the garden is bare, the weeds are more visible. Pulling now is the best time to get a head start on next year’s weed season.

  • Don’t let your fountain water freeze. It is best to winterize your fountain by shutting off the pump, disconnecting the hose from the pump and protecting the pump. Many fountains have large reservoirs which help keep the water from freezing. Also, depending of the type of material the fountain is made of, you may need to protect it further. Metal fountains are fine if left alone. Concrete fountains do best if water is not able to set and freeze. So it is advisable to put a towel in the bottom of each tier to soak up water and have the towel do the freezing instead of the concrete. Even with these precautions, I still had a concrete fountain freeze and crack. Ceramic fountains may need to be put inside a shed or garage to protect from freezing.

  • Of course, a fountain is a wonderful feature to decorate for the holidays. I do various designs with my fountains. Just because it’s not running, doesn’t mean it can’t still be a showstopper. Fill it with evergreens, magnolias, pomegranates, and drape with ribbon. A fountain is a great opportunity to make a garden and design statement. After the holidays, it becomes a giant birdbath. When the water freezes in a tier, I send one of my kids out, usually Aster, with a hammer to break open.


  • Don’t forget your bird friends.  They add so much to the garden and to the gardeners’ enjoyment.  My favorite part of the garden is when I am walking down a garden path and see and hear the birds take flight as I come through.  Be sure to provide a continual supply of seed, suet and water.

Let me know some of your November maintenance task and your gardening zone.



  1. tina said

    All very good things to do in the garden.

  2. Great tips!

    I still have to tackle my colocasia…they were still standing strong and blooming yesterday…ginger is still going, too. This week will be very cold, so it is that time to tuck them in for a long winter’s nap.


  3. Doesn’t it seem it went from fall to winter overnight?

  4. kk said

    I like the fruit and cheese plate in the fountian, but doesnt it attract homless people?

  5. Ah, kk, you are mistaken, there is no cheese plate with my fruit bowl. And you know better than anyone, everyone is welcome in my garden. H.

  6. November is a challenging month for me in our garden. Chores are okay but the realization that it will be 4 months before I can get back outside to plant can cause me some winter blues already.

  7. I don’t even know how to respond. I’m a weenie when it comes to winter. When we had a cold snap in early November, I went to visit my Russian friend (in Raleigh) and when he opened the door, his face light up in happiness – not to see me, but for the rush of cold air. However, one summer evening we had he and his wife over (also Russian) for dinner. The summer air was heavy with 90/90 – ninety degrees and 90 percent humidity. I was laid back relaxed, they went inside.

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