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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Your November calendar of garden chores

Deadhead flowering houseplants and trim brown folia.

Deadhead flowering houseplants and trim brown folia. Credit: Dreamstime

In life, November is a month for reflection and gratitude; in the garden, it's for cleaning and clearing. Although preparing the home for family visits and holiday celebrations is front-and-center for many, making time to prepare the garden will go a long way toward ensuring healthy plants and a clean slate come spring. This year, I'm thankful for a newly power-washed fence, a "Blue Diddley" chaste tree, an Incrediball blush smooth hydrangea and a fragrant peach "At Last" landscape rose. Mostly, though, I'm thankful for my friends and family, and for all of you. Happy Thanksgiving!

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 holiday blooms, pot amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs now. Get instructions at

2. Mow the lawn one last time and shorter than usual (bring blades down to 1.5 inches, but only for the last cut of the season.)

3. Place Christmas cactus in bright light for 10 hours daily and total darkness at 55 to 60 degrees for 14 hours nightly, and you will have flowers for the holidays.

4. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Set clocks back an hour.

5. Winterize water gardens and cover koi ponds with netting to keep leaves and debris from mucking up the water.

6. "Elect" to adjust your pH for spring. Apply lime  indicated by a soil test, then head for the polls.

7. Happy Diwali! Instead of traditional sweets, bring light to the lives of your loved ones by gifting a lucky bamboo plant.

8. Wait until after vines die back to harvest winter squash, but be sure to do so before frost hits.

9. Prune weak and damaged branches from trees so they won’t break off and threaten damage and injury when winter winds whip up.

10. Clean, sharpen and oil pruners and other tools, then store in a dry spot so they will be ready to go when you need them in spring. 

11. Empty soil from pots into the compost pile or garden holes that need filling, then rinse with a 10:1 water-bleach solution. If made of clay, pots should be stored indoors to prevent cracking.

12. To all my veteran readers: Many, many heartfelt thanks for your service!

13. Cut asparagus to the ground and mulch with 2 inches of well-rotted manure.

14. You can still plant evergreens. Be sure to water, apply mulch and protect young trees with burlap over winter.

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

16. Inspect tree trunks and the undersides of branches for gypsy moth egg masses. Scrape the tan-colored blobs off and discard in the trash.

17. Firewood transported more than 50 miles can increase the risk of new invasive pest infestations that can destroy trees in our area. Please buy local.

18. Keep firewood stored outdoors to avoid bringing insects into the house.

19. As long as temperatures are above 40 degrees, spray broad-leaved evergreens with an antidesiccant to protect them from winter dehydration.

20. Harvest Brussels sprouts and enjoy with your holiday meal.

21. For an early spring harvest, sow spinach seeds outdoors. Be sure to apply mulch.

22. It’s Thanksgiving and that means three things: Turkey, family and covering the fig tree. Wrap with burlap and tar paper and top with a bucket to deflect water; never wrap with plastic.

23. Pot garden parsley and chives and set on a sunny windowsill.

24. To create a new bed for spring, cover area with thick layers of wet newspaper and cardboard to smother grass over winter.

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

26. Turn over vegetable beds now to disrupt the life cycles of harmful insects trying to survive in the soil.

27. Deadhead flowering houseplants and trim brown foliage.

28. Prepare a bed for pea seeds you will sow in March.

29. If the ground isn’t frozen, it’s not too late to plant bulbs.

30. Arborvitaes and upright junipers tend to bow and break from ice damage; protect now with a loose twine wrapping.

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