Garden Help Desk
|Master gardeners will take your gardening questions at the VCE Help Desk year-round. Give us a call. We will be back at farmers markets in May 2020.
Trees & Shrubs
Rake up and remove leaves from shrubs (such as roses) that have exhibited disease. These leaves are likely to contain spores that will re-infect the plants next year.
Commercial sprays have a good track record in repelling deer. Spray every two to four weeks, and rotate among two to three products to keep the deer from growing accustomed to the scents.
If weather is dry, water deeply any trees or shrubs planted within the past year.
Aim to complete your planting activities by November. However, if you need to plant a tree or shrub, make sure to water it deeply, and add a protective layer of mulch to the ground to prevent the soil from freezing. Late plantings in exposed areas will also benefit from the erection of windbreaks on the northwest side of the plant. Remember that evergreens are subject to desiccation in winter, especially if they have not become established. Overall, the later you plant evergreens, the greater the change of winter damage.
This is a good time to inspect your trees and shrubs for scale insects. Cherry and Otto Luyken Laurels are notorious for white peach scale infestations. If you find scale, spray with dormant oil in late November and again in early spring.
Prune suckers from crape myrtles and forsythia. Prune all dead, damaged, or diseased branches any time of the year. See Deciduous and Evergreen Tree Pruning Schedules and a Shrub Pruning Calendar in the references below. Many can be pruned in November.
This is a good time to have your soil tested and to apply lime if the soil test indicates a pH that is too acidic. Lime acts very slowly so giving it the winter to raise the pH will provide benefits in the spring.
Leaves from your shade trees
Do not leave them sitting on the grass. Either remove them by raking or shred them with your mulching mower. Allow the leaves to decompose on your turfgrass and return nutrients to the soil; or, if you choose to remove them, add the shredded leaves to a compost pile.
Keep mowing until the grass stops growing. You may cut at 2 inches for Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue.
Winterize your mower
The most important November task here is to run all gasoline from the gas tank. Sometime during the winter offseason, drain and replace the engine oil, have your blades sharpened, and replace the air filter and sparkplug. With the sparkplug disconnected, clean any grass residue from the underside of the mower deck.
Make your final application of lawn fertilizer this month.
It’s time to clean up. Good garden sanitation is important to prevent disease and insect problems next year. Diseased vegetation should be put in the trash, not your compost bin. Cut back stalks of perennial vegetables such as asparagus after the first killing frost.
If you did not plant a cover crop, top dress your soil with mulch or compost to protect it from leaching and erosion. If you mulch with leaves make sure they are ground up (use your lawn mower) so they do not form a wet mat over the garden soil in winter. Ground-up leaves should decompose over the winter.
Plant garlic now for a late spring harvest.
Clean up any fallen fruits and limbs from beneath fruit trees. These may contain insect eggs or adults that will cause problems next year. Also remove dried, mummified fruit from the trees. These may contain diseases.
Wrap trunks with hardware cloth that you can buy at most garden centers and hardware stores. Tuck the wrap a little below the soil surface to prevent gnawing damage by voles.
Cut back herbaceous perennials after several frosts. Those with shallow roots, such Gaillardia (blanket flowers), need to be mulched to prevent frost from heaving them from the ground.
Herbaceous perennials in pots
These need some protection from winter cold. Roots are often hardy only to the mid-20’s. Put the pots in a garage, shed or overwintering greenhouse.
Planting spring bulbs: Do not plant them before the soil temperature has dropped below 55 degrees. Otherwise, they may begin to sprout in soil that is too warm.
Caladiums, cannas and elephant ears
Trim the vegetation, and dig up your caladiums before the first frost. Let them dry out, and store them in a cool, dry place for the winter. Some people wrap them in newspapers; others store them in sawdust. For cannas and elephant ears, wait until after the first killing frost. Cut off the dead vegetation, dig up the tubers and store them the same way you store the caladiums.
Plant a row of sweet peas to germinate in early spring.
Most houseplants should be watered when the surface of the soil feels dry. Add water until it runs out the bottom of the pot. If the soil has pulled away from the pot’s rim, it is much too dry. The pot should be soaked in a bucket of water to restore the proper soil moisture.
As the calendar approaches late November, the sun becomes very low and light is too weak to promote plant growth until the sun is higher in the sky in mid- to late-winter. Use a grow light to augment the sunlight during this time of year. Illuminate the grow light no more than 16 hours per day.
You might be surprised to find that the temperature on your windowsill is five to 10 degrees colder than near your thermostat. Therefore, if you keep your house at 65 degrees, it is possible that windowsill temperature may be as low as 55 degrees on cold nights. Almost all houseplants originate from the tropics and do not respond well to cold. Night time temperatures of 55 degrees may be lethal to some plants such as African violets. It is a good idea to close the window shades at night and make sure your temperature-sensitive plants are on the warm side of the shades.
A Guide to Successful Pruning, Shrub Pruning Calendar, VCE Publication 430-462
A Guide to Successful Pruning, Deciduous Tree Pruning Calendar, VCE Publication 430-460
A Guide to Successful Pruning, Evergreen Tree Pruning Calendar, VCE Publication 430-461
Mowing To Recycle Grass Clippings: Let the Clips Fall Where They May, VCE Publication 430-402
Maintenance Calendar for Cool-Season Turfgrasses in Virginia, VCE Publication 430-523
Maintenance Calendar for Warm-Season Lawns in Virginia, VCE Publication 439-522
Spring & Summer Lawn Management Considerations for Cool-Season Turfgrasses, VCE Publication 430-532
Fall Lawn Care, VCE Publication 430-520
Annuals: Culture and Maintenance, VCE Publication 426-200
Tree Fruit in the Home Garden, VCE Publication 426-841
Small Fruit in the Home Garden, VCE Publication 426-840
November Tips: Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers, VCE Publication
November Tips: Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs, VCE Publication
November Tips: Lawns and Landscaping, VCE Publication
November Tips: Interior Gardening, VCE Publication
November Tips: Tools and Equipment, VCE Publication
November Tips: Vegetables, VCE Publication