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A autumn scene at Old Westbury Gardens.

A autumn scene at Old Westbury Gardens. Photo Credit: Vince Kish

Crisp, colorful, fragrant November is a beautiful time of year. It's also quite messy, as we rake, turn our backs and find we have to rake again. This month, we focus on cleaning and clearing, protecting and preparing for winter.

Remember, it's illegal to apply fertilizer from Nov. 1 through April 1 in Suffolk. In Nassau, fertilizer is prohibited between Nov. 15 and April 1. As the ground cools and freezes, it is unable to absorb fertilizer, and the excess nitrogen runs off and leaches into groundwater, endangering our drinking water and public health.

1. For December blooms, place Christmas cactus in the dark at 55-60 degrees for 14 hours each night, and in bright light for 10 hours daily.

2. It's time to "fall back": Resume standard time at 2 a.m. by setting clocks back one hour.

3. To force paperwhites for holiday blooms, pot bulbs up now. Get step-by-step instructions at

4. It's Election Day -- be a good citizen and vote. Then come home and rake some leaves.

5. To avoid damage from winter winds, prune weak and broken branches from trees.

6. Inspect foundations and crawl spaces for gaps and cracks and repair or fill with steel wool to keep rodents from entering the house.

7. Wrap juniper and arborvitae branches loosely with twine to protect from snow and ice damage.

8. Winterize the koi pond.

9. Empty pots and planters onto the compost pile or into garden holes that need filling.

10. Clean clay pots with a 10 percent bleach solution, rinse and store indoors to keep them from cracking over the winter.

11. Raise a flag in the garden to honor our veterans.

12. Resist the urge to apply new mulch; it's still too early. The ground must be frozen.

13. Plant evergreens; water and protect from winter winds by wrapping with burlap.

14. As long as temperatures are above 40 degrees, spray broadleaf evergreens with an antidesiccant to protect them from winter dehydration.

15. Cut the grass one last time -- shorter than usual, to 11/2 inches. Leave clippings on the lawn.

16. Make your own mulch for next year by piling up raked leaves (shred oak leaves first so they don't mat) in a corner of the yard.

17. Drain and store hoses, but leave one accessible for watering evergreens during winter dry spells.

18. Sow spinach seeds outdoors and mulch for an early spring harvest.

19. Inspect tree trunks and the under branches for gray blobs. They're gypsy moth egg masses. Remove and discard in the trash.

20. Pot up parsley and chives and set on a sunny windowsill.

21. Store firewood outside to avoid bringing pests into your home.

22. Deadhead flowering houseplants and trim brown foliage.

23. Rake leaves (again) and complete your fall cleanup. Never allow leaves to remain on pavement; they'll muck up the groundwater.

24. Clear gutters of leaves and debris.

25. Turn over vegetable beds to disrupt the life cycles of harmful insects in the soil.

26. Harvest Brussels sprouts.

27. Celebrate your harvest, roast those Brussels sprouts and have a happy Thanksgiving!

28. Wrap fig trees. See my instructional video at

29. Prepare a seed bed now so you can easily plant peas in March.

30. Continue to plant bulbs as long as the ground isn't frozen.


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