By Resh Gala, author, Vegetable Gardening Made Easy: Simple Tips & Tricks to Grow Your Best Garden Ever available December 19, 2023, published by Cool Springs Press
Clean Up the Garden
The most important gardening task in November is to clean up your garden, removing any dying, diseased, decaying plant matter and debris such as fallen or rotting fruits and vegetables. Compost what you can and discard the rest. This will ensure that your garden stays healthy and looks attractive, too.
Disconnect Watering Pipes/ Turn Off Irrigation/ Empty Rain Barrels
Don’t forget to disconnect and drain your watering hoses in winter—otherwise you will risk pipes bursting during a freeze. Same goes for drip irrigation. Be sure to turn it off in winter before temperatures fall below freezing.
Empty all rain barrels and water fountains to prevent cracking and damage.
Add Compost or Organic Matter to Soil
If there’s one task that you absolutely must do in fall, it’s to add compost or organic matter to your soil, especially to your vegetable garden. Add 3 to 4 inches of homemade compost, mushroom compost or leaf mold (made with decaying leaves) on top of your soil.
This will not only prevent soil erosion and compaction but will be a source of food for earthworms and beneficial soil microbes in winter. The best part is that, as the compost further breaks down over the winter months, it releases nutrients into the soil, making it a rich and healthy environment to grow food in spring.
Clean Your Tools
November is also a good time to make sure your garden tools are in good condition before you store them away for winter. Disinfect them by simply washing with soap and warm water.
If they are rusted, soak them overnight in some distilled white vinegar. Scrub off the rust the next day using a steel wool pad, soap and water. Finally, wipe the blades with a soft cloth that has been dipped in some vegetable oil to restore their shine and improve their longevity.
Bring in Cold-Sensitive Plants
If you’re growing citrus or fruit trees such as lemons, kumquats or figs, it’s important to bring them indoors for winter as they will struggle when temperatures drop below 45 degrees F. Be sure to inspect plants for pests and diseases (especially on the underside of leaves). Hose down the plants with water and wipe leaves clean with a soft cloth before bringing it indoors.
Place plants in a greenhouse or warm sunny location, preferably with a humidifier in the room to help them get acclimated to the new environment.
As temperatures start to drop in November, you will notice that plants will struggle to grow and thrive, and this can make your garden look unsightly. It’s important to keep your growing clean and healthy, as decaying plant matter can harbor unwanted pests and diseases, and can become a hiding spot for predators like rats and snakes too.
What to Avoid Doing
Avoid pruning fruit trees in fall. The purpose of pruning is to help the plant redirect its energy into producing new growth and fruits. In winter growth slows down significantly and sometimes even stops temporarily (in below freezing conditions). Hence pruning won’t be as effective and can even harm the plant.
Instead, the best time to prune your fruit trees is in late winter, right before spring time, which will encourage it to grow again.