November Gardening Tips
Consider starting a garden journal to help keep track of the successes, inputs, shortcomings, highlights, and layout of your garden.
This can be as simple as grabbing a sheet of paper and jotting down anything new and interesting you learned this season, or as in-depth as making a scale map of your garden and inventorying all the inputs and outputs throughout the season. Now is a great time to start a journal as there’s not a lot left to do in the garden and this past growing season is a recent memory. A map can be very useful if you have a larger garden and want to start thinking about rotating your crops to help prevent the spread of common garden diseases. This can also help with spacing as it’s easy to get carried away with over-planting in the spring which results in crowding and can lead to increased disease issues. Follow the spacing recommendations on seed packets and measure it out on your garden map and stick to the plan in spring for best results.
Keep mowing until the grass stops growing.
Turf grass growth slows as the days get shorter and cooler, but it’s a good idea to keep mowing at a height of 2.5”-3” until it stops growing in late fall. Grass left longer than 3” at the end of the season can get matted under the snow making it more susceptible to diseases like snow mold. While it’s too late in the year for fertilizer to provide any significant benefit to your turf you can still apply lime if a soil test has indicated low pH. If you prefer to bag your lawn clippings consider leaving them instead, as the clippings can return nutrients to the soil as they break down over time and reduce the need for fertilization. If you still wish to bag them for a tidier look you could mix them with the abundance of leaves typically found this time of year to make your own leaf compost.
If you’ve been noticing little raised, black, tar-like spots on your plants, siding, deck, and cars you may have artillery fungus (Sphaerobolus spp.) growing in your mulch bed.
The fruiting body of this wood-decay fungus appears as tiny cups around 1/10” in diameter with a packet of spores called glebal masses nested in the center. These glebal masses have a very adhesive coating and are what you are finding stuck to your house, cars, and plants. When the conditions are right, such as during the cool wet months of spring and fall like we’ve had this year, the fungus builds up osmotic pressure and “shoots” these glebal masses up to 20 feet. These spots can be very difficult to remove and may cause more damage to paint and vinyl in the process so it may be best to leave them and let them weather off naturally over time. There is no fungicide approved to treat artillery fungus. The best treatment is to remove any mulch that might be harboring the fungus and replace with a more resistant wood mulch such as pine nuggets, white cedar, or cypress. You could also consider replacing the mulched area with ground cover or stone.
Garlic can be a great late season addition to the garden and it’s not too late to plant.
Growing garlic is easy, takes up little space in the garden, and can provide you with a long-lasting harvest. It’s best to plant garlic cloves pointed side up in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0 about 2-3” deep. Spacing between cloves should be 6” to allow room for the cloves to grow into a head of garlic. Put down a 3-4 inch layer of leaf, straw, or grass clipping mulch to protect the soil from frost heaving and reduce weed seed germination. If you’ve already planted garlic and you’re starting to see shoots, don’t worry, as that’s an indicator that the roots are growing well and it will likely overwinter and rebound in spring. Typically in June the hardneck garlic varieties will develop a false flower stalk called a scape, and these can be cut and cooked for a delicious summer harvest. Harvest your garlic when the lower third leaves have turned yellow, typically in July, store in a cool dry area, and set some heads aside to plant next fall. Use the rest for all your culinary endeavors throughout the year.
Voles can be a very destructive pest of fruit trees.
During the winter months they tunnel under the snow and feed on the lower bark sometimes girdling and killing entire trees. Some of their favorite plants to feed on include apple, peach, plum, quince, pear, cherry, blackberry, raspberry, rose, grape, blueberry, juniper and dogwood. Managing voles in the landscape can be difficult but one very effective strategy is to build a physical barrier to prevent access to the trunk. This can best be done by using 1/4 inch mesh galvanized hardware cloth to form a cylinder around the base of the tree. A good height is 24 inches as voles can enter over the top if we receive enough snowfall to cover the wire mesh barrier. Be sure to leave at least a couple inches between the trunk of the tree and the hardware cloth to allow room for the tree to grow without the mesh damaging the bark. It’s also a good idea to bury the bottom of the cylinder at least two inches to prevent the voles from burrowing underneath. Rigid plastic barriers are also available and effective but may not last as long as galvanized steel. This makes for a great November project as it needs to be done before the ground is frozen. Learn more about preparing backyard fruits for winter.
Now is still a good time to have a soil test done.
Testing the soil now can help you plan for spring. The process is simple and affordable and tells you a great deal about your soil that is otherwise unknown. The Standard Home Grounds & Garden test will cover your soil pH level, % organic matter content, and levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It will also include specific recommendations on how to improve your soil to optimize growing conditions for whatever plants or crops you plan to grow in the area tested. Since most plants are starting to enter winter dormancy it’s best to hold off on fertilizer applications until spring. If your soil is acidic with a pH below 6.0 a lime application at the rate stated on your soil test results can be made any time before the soil freezes. Lime takes time to break down in the soil to raise the pH so a fall application can help optimize the soil for next year. The common recommendation is to have your soil tested every 2 or 3 years to make sure the pH and nutrient levels are kept in check.
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