Helpful Garden Tips for November and December
Last updated 11/7/2022 at 8:36pm | View PDF
Autumn is in full gear this month. This is a great time to plant almost any tree, shrub, perennial, ground cover, wildflower seeds and the last of spring-flowering bulbs. While the days are shorter and storms may affect our ability to work outdoors, it is generally more pleasant both for us and the plants, as long as we follow some simple guidelines.
This is an especially good month to plant those California and Mediterranean woody shrubs that don't thrive with too much summer water. This includes manzanita, ceanothus, lavender, coffeeberry and buckthorn, bush lupine, flannel bush and rosemary.
November is the month to plant spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils and narcissus in a site where they will get a full day of sunshine at least through early summer.
Purchase bulbs that are firm and without spots of mold. Plant the bulb three times deeper than its height. Usually, the pointed end of the bulb is placed up when planting. All spring bulbs should be planted by Thanksgiving.
If you grow dahlias, November is the month to dig and divide overcrowded tubers. Store them in a cool dry place until re-planting in February.
Early in the month, we can still plant winter vegetables like greens, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. This is good since I am always late getting those last seedlings in the ground.
After the leaves fall, begin pruning deciduous shrubs and trees, not only to shape them, but to prevent storm damage. Our Master Gardener website has more complete instructions and illustrations on pruning trees the correct way.
Fall and winter blooming plants and vegetables can be fertilized. Do not fertilize California native plants. The exception is that you can provide your manzanita with a very weak dose of fertilizer for acid-loving plants like azalea and camelia. Do not fertilize avocado, citrus, palms or other frost-sensitive plants in the fall.
If your peach or nectarine tree had deformed leaves during the summer, it probably had "peach leaf curl." This is a fungal disease that affects fruiting and, if severe, can cause the tree to die. To control peach leaf curl:
• Rake leaves when they fall. Remove any mummies and discard. Do not add these to your compost pile.
• Spray trunk, branches and the ground underneath the tree with a copper-based fungicide or a Bordeaux mixture (a slurry made of hydrated lime and copper sulfate). You can also use a synthetic fungicide. Products need to have 50% copper to be truly effective.
• One application is usually enough, however, if we have a wet winter, then spray again before the flower buds swell in the spring.
If the month is on the dry side, remember to deep water your trees and large shrubs, even if they have lost their leaves. Your irrigation controller should be adjusted downward even if we don't get a lot of rain.
Cooler nights and shorter days mean that most plants will not need as much water. Be sure to check your city's website for winter watering rules.
Stop dead-heading roses and other spring-bloomers to encourage them to settle into dormancy. All plants require a dormant period to thrive into old age. Don't fertilize or try to keep them going too long. It is their season to wind down in preparation of a winter rest.
If you have non-native milkweed (usually with orange or yellow flowers), make sure the flowers are pruned off to encourage monarch butterflies to migrate. The cold of winter will kill the butterflies if they stick around.
You can check and refill bird feeders with fresh seed and check after rainstorms to make sure the seed isn't moldy. Consider leaving some seed stalks on some of your grasses and perennials for birds to forage this winter.
In the edible garden, add straw, old hay, alfalfa pellets and/or compost to the planting beds. If you take care of the soil, your plants will be stronger and better able to resist pest pressures next spring. Keep after the weeds that use up nutrients your plants need.
Happy harvest! Happy (hopefully) rain and snow month!
The Master Gardeners will be available to answer your questions in the next few months at:
Visalia Farmer's Market - 1st & 3rd Saturdays, 8-11 a.m., 2100 W. Caldwell Ave., Visalia;
Ace Hardware, Visalia - 1st Saturday every month, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.;
Luis Nursery, Visalia - 2nd Saturday every month, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.;
Hofman's Nursery, Hanford – 3rd Saturday every month, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; and
Foothill Festival – Saturday, November 5, noon - 5 p.m., River Ridge Ranch, 37675 Balch Park Rd., Springville.