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NOVEMBER: What to Do in the Garden


In the Edible Garden

  • Place all weeds, leaves and disease-free dead plant material in the compost pile.
  • Clean and store all your garden equipment and tools.*
  • Drain outdoor water pipes.
  • Kill insects by digging or tilling the garden in the fall. This exposes the insects to winter cold and reduces their numbers in next year’s garden.
  • Store root crops (carrots, turnips and Jerusalem artichokes) in the ground. Bury these crops under a heavy layer of straw.
  • Add compost or leaf mold to the soil to increase its organic matter content. Either fork it into the soil or spread it on top and allow it to be incorporated by earthworm activity. Doing it this month while the soil is still workable is easier than trying to wait for the soil to dry early next spring.
  • Consider planting a pot of basil indoors for kitchen uses this winter. Give it the highest light possible and keep the soil moderately moist.

In the Ornamental Garden

  • Leaving perennials standing and not cutting them back may help to protect the crown. If you mulch, go ahead and cut them back.
  • Rake fallen leaves from grass. Leaves left on lawn over winter will smother and kill grass.
  • Plant spring- flowering bulbs as long as the ground is not frozen.
  • Protect evergreen trees and shrubs with an additional watering sometime this month. Consider whether to protect the plants with a burlap screen to ward off salt-laden street plowings or to shield the plant from a south face where sunny days may warm the plant enough to begin breaking dormancy too early.
  • Continue mowing the lawn until growth stops, typically when temperatures are below 40 degrees consistently. Do not lower mower height, keep settings at between 2 and 3 inches. Leaves shredded to dime size or smaller can be left on turf to act as organic fertilizer over the winter.
  • Do not mulch roses and perennials until next month. The purpose is to seal in the cold, not to protect the plants from going into dormancy.

In the Indoor Garden

  • Rotate your houseplants to promote even growth.
  • On cold nights, move houseplants back from icy windows to prevent chilling injury.
  • If you are overwintering potted geraniums, keep them in bright light and cool temperatures. Keep soil on the dry side.
  • One of the easiest November projects can be planting paperwhites. They need no soil, can be grown in water alone or in gravel kept wet. Keep them in a cool, bright window and within a few weeks, the small daffodil flowers open with a distinct aroma. Plant in succession so you will have a new group coming into flower throughout next month.
  • If you put away your amaryllis bulbs in September, you can begin bringing those back this month or next. Water the pots, provide bottom warmth (top of a water heater can work) and wait for new leaf growth to emerge. When it does, move to a bright window and water frequently. Do not fertilize at this time.
  • Sticking with the bulb theme, if you have a bright window that is a bit drafty, try growing a pot of freesias. Plant the small bulbs 2” deep and an inch apart with the pointed end facing up. Provide good drainage, water well, and keep pot lightly moist. The stems are prone to flop, so provide support. The fragrance of a freesia is even stronger than a paperwhite but much sweeter.

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questions

I recently moved to Chicago from Houston and I miss fresh picked figs. Is there any way to grow figs in Chicago short of installing a greenhouse? Will sunny windows do? I’m desperate.

We have a skylight in the bathroom over our Jacuzzi tub with an area around the tub that is quite large. What plants can we grow there, and what care do they need? Can we grow orchids?

Is there a best time to plant tulips? I see them at the garden centers in late summer but I am afraid that it is too early to plant them. If I wait too long, I might forget all about them.

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