November. It’s the month we start looking forward to the holidays. It is also the month when garden chores seriously start to slow down. But even though, there are still some tasks the gardener must attend to before finally hanging the spade. Here’s our suggested to-do list for this month…
TIPS IN GENERAL
Mulch. Mulching is beneficial to organic gardening because it helps keep soil warm during the winter, helps retain moisture during the summer, kills weeds, encourages microbial activity in the soil, improves soil structure, deters some soil pests and protects the roots of plants from extreme temperatures. Mulching before winter sets in also keeps plants from heaving out of the ground. The best time to mulch is after the ground starts to freeze but before the first snow falls.
Read our post on Mulching for general guidelines and mulch materials for vegetable gardens.
Weed now and lessen your chores next spring.
Compost. Start a compost pile with the materials you have pulled out of the beds (but make sure these are not diseased) and all the leaves you have raked. Homemade compost is the secret to a successful organic garden so start composting now if you haven’t done so yet.
Read our compost related posts:
Have your soil tested. If there are areas in your garden where plants refused to thrive this year, take a sample of soil from there and send it for testing to your local Cooperative Extension service. Some amendments can be spread or incorporated into the soil before the ground freezes. Adding necessary amendments early will also allow slow-acting amendments like lime to become available to plants next spring.
Cover crops. November is also a good time to plant cover crops, also known as green manure. These crops are specifically grown to turn back into the soil which improves the soil’s structure. Nitrogen fixing plants like Austrian field peas and fava beans convert nitrogen from the air and release it to the soil as plant nutrient.
Read this post to know other crops to sow: Winter Cover Crops: What Green Manure to Sow for Overwintering
VEGETABLES, HERBS, FRUITS
To get a head start on such early crops like peas and spinach, prepare a seedbed for them now. You can even sow spinach this month – though not peas – and ensure an early spring harvest.
Mulch your strawberries with straw.
Pot up your parsley and chives and bring them indoors. If you have garlic, pot up a few cloves too. These will yield chive-like garlic greens all winter that you can use for garnish. If you have a really sunny windowsill even during the cold months, you can sow seeds of herbs like basil and peppermint in a pot.
Related Post: 12 Herbs to Grow Indoors in the Winter
Till and prepare your soil now if you plan to grow strawberries or asparagus next spring. By doing this, you can plant the bare-root plants you will order over the winter extra early come spring.
Harvest broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collards, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, lettuce, parsnips, peas, potatoes and radishes.
Once raspberries are finished producing fruit, prune the fruiting top sections and leave the lower section of branch for next year’s early crop.
Freeze or can your bounty. Hang your herbs in a cool dry place.
Control harmful insects by keeping insect eating birds around. Put out a feeder to bring the birds closer and keep them active in your garden. Birds can help lessen the number of overwintering insects in your garden, minimizing your pest problems next year.
Remove any infected plant material from your garden to keep any disease from spreading and reinfecting your crops next year.
Drain the gas from gas powered equipment like lawnmowers before storing them.
Open sprinkler valves and drain water from sprinkler systems to keep them from freezing.
Drain and store hoses.
Empty terra cotta and ceramic pots. Sterilize them with a mixture of 1:9 parts bleach and water. Store them bottom up in a protected area to keep them from cracking.
Start cleaning your garden tools and put them away until next spring.
Related Post: Tips for Cleaning Your Garden Tools Organically