November is a beautiful, crisp and fragrant month. It’s time to reflect and give thanks, and also to clean, clear, protect and store. As we tuck the garden into bed for winter, here are 30 tips and final chores that need attending.
Note: 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 a dark spot at 55-60 degrees for 14 hours nightly, and in bright light for 10 hours daily.
2. Cut the grass one last time — shorter than usual to 1½ inches.
3. Winterize water gardens and cover koi ponds with netting.
4. Harvest winter squash after vines die back but before frost hits.
5. It’s time to “fall back”: Resume standard time at 2 a.m. by setting clocks back one hour.
6. Rodents and insects will be seeking shelter soon; fill cracks and gaps in foundations, crawl spaces and around windows and doors.
7. It’s Election Day. “Elect” to adjust your pH for spring. Apply lime now if indicated by a soil test, then head for the polls.
8. If you plan to get a live Christmas tree, dig a hole now in a spot that will accommodate its mature size. Fill with leaves and cover with tarp until you’re ready.
9. Check houseplants for spider mites and scale, and treat if you find any.
10. Arborvitaes and upright junipers tend to bow and break from ice damage; protect now with a loose twine wrapping.
11. Raise a flag to honor veterans for their service.
12. Dump soil from pots and planters onto the compost pile or into garden holes that need filling.
13. Clean and stock bird feeders and consider a de-icer for the birdbath.
14. Clear fallen leaves, fruit and berries from around roses, fruit trees, lilacs, etc., that showed signs of disease. Discard debris in the trash so it doesn’t reinfect plants next year.
15. Cut asparagus all the way to the ground. Mulch with 2 inches of well-rotted manure.
16. Prepare a bed now so you can plant peas in March.
17. Inspect for viburnum leaf beetle egg cases after leaves drop. Remove affected twigs and branches.
18. Even if your landscaper insists, resist mulching until the ground is frozen.
19. As long as temperatures are above 40 degrees, spray broadleaf evergreens with an antidesiccant to protect from winter dehydration.
20. Rake up leaves — and go ahead, let the kids jump in them. Then rake again and add to the compost pile.
21. Hunt for beige blobs on tree trunks, under branches and patio furniture, pry them off with a sharp knife and throw them in the trash. They’re gypsy moth egg masses.
22. Drain hoses and store all but one. You’ll need it for watering evergreens and newly planted trees during dry winter spells.
23. Happy Thanksgiving! Work off your holiday dinner with a fig tree-wrapping session. (Get my detailed video instructions at newsday.com/gardening101.)
24. It’s gutter-cleaning time. Do it now, before snow and ice come along.
25. Check deer fences for gaps and repair if necessary.
26. Turn over the vegetable patch to disrupt the life cycle of pests that are trying to settle in.
27. Dig up and store cannas, colocasias, dahlias, caladiums and gladioli after they’ve been blackened by frost.
28. Sow spinach seeds outdoors and mulch for an early spring harvest.
29. Deadhead flowering houseplants and trim brown foliage.
30. Dig and pot up chives and parsley, and grow indoors by a sunny kitchen window for winter use.