November garden roundup
November - fall leaves, red berries, days growing shorter - still things to do in the garden this month. Finish fall garden cleanup before daytime temperatures truly begin to drop. Plant bulbs this month for color next spring. Set out winter blooming annuals and perennials to keep the garden blooming - even when it's too cold to be out in the garden.
Here are few things to do in the garden during November:
Flowers and bulbs for winter and spring blooms are in garden centers now. Transplant annuals including pansies, violas calendula, Iceland poppies, and primroses. Winter-blooming perennials include cineraria, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, and violets. Plant bulbs, corms, tubers, and rhizomes this month - daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, anemones, grape hyacinths, and ranunculus; these will bloom in late winter and early spring.
Indoor cyclamen. Cyclamen grows well outdoors here in the Sonoma Valley, but did you know it can also brighten up the house for the holidays - red, pink, salmon, and white. Cyclamen is native to the cool regions of Persia. The trick to growing cyclamen indoors is to put it in a self-watering pot and never let it dry out. Mist indoor cyclamen daily. Miniature cyclamen are a very good bet; they are not fussy about warm, dry air once the furnace kicks on, and they are fragrant.
Frost coming, prepare now. Row covers and plant blankets should be at the ready this time of year. Make sure you have covers for tender plants when frost threatens. Don't wait for the freeze forecast to run to the garden center for protection - they'll be sold out when you arrive. Wrap the trunks of young citrus, kiwi, and avocado trees with heavy paper to protect them from frost damage. (Remove the paper next spring.) Have an antitranspirant spray on hand to spray citrus when a hard freeze is predicted.
Harvest and plant vegetables. Harvest what is left of summer vegetables; finish before the first big rain storm or the first heavy frost. Continue to plant the winter vegetable garden this month with cool-season crops such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions, parsnips, and turnips. If you aren't growing vegetables through the winter, cover the planting beds with aged steer manure and allow it to settle into the garden through the cold months.
Soil preparation is best done now, not after heavy rains arrive. Dig, weed, and amend the soil now. If you are planting bare-root roses or fruit trees later this winter, get the planting beds and holes ready now. Once the soil is rain soaked, avoid digging - you will only compact the soil and make it harder for the roots of newly planted shrubs and trees to take hold. Once the garden is cleared of harvest debris and spent plants, lay down two inches of aged compost or steer manure to refresh soil nutrients. Do this now and let the winter rains carry the nutrients deep into the soil.
Composting continues even as the days grow shorter. Chop up disease-free leaves and dead annuals and put them on the compost pile. Keep the compost pile just as damp as a wrung-out sponge - not wetter - for fast composting. You may need to cover the compost pile with a tarp this winter if heavy rains come. Don't let the compost pile get sopping wet; it will delay decomposition.
Camellias and years of drought. You don't have to deprive yourself of camellia blooms through years of drought. Camellias have long been a garden standard in California (have you visited Filoli in Woodside recently?) but many gardeners have shied away from them in the last few years of drought. Many of these Chinese natives don't need extra water once established. Camellia sasanqua is a fall and early winter blooming camellia and it's hardier and more drought tolerant that the more familiar Camellia japonica. Two great sasanqua varieties are “Setsugekka” with large, white flowers that are long-lasting as cut flowers and “Yuletide” with bright red blooms and showy yellow stamens.
Japanese maples. The time to shop for Japanese maples is now - when they are in full autumn color. Japanese maples dazzle in autumn. More than 80 varieties of Japanese maples are grown in American gardens and many are available at Wildwood Nursery right here in Kenwood. Here are four to check out: Laceleaf maple (Dissectum Viridis) has a charming dome shape with bright green summer leaves; “Bloodgood” is red in spring turning to bright crimson in fall; “Maiku Jaku” has spectacular burgundy fall foliage; and the coral bark maple “Sango Kaku” is showy through winter then leafs out in spring with pale yellow leaves that turn green in summer and then gold in fall. Spectacular!
Bare-root planting list. Bare-root roses, fruit trees, and ornamentals will be available in the garden centers from January through March. Make a list now of the bare-roots you want so you can scoop them up as soon as they are available. Many garden centers sell bare-roots in advance of delivery. Berkeley Horticulture Nursery is go-to location for hard-to-find varieties.
Steve Albert is the author of The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide available at Amazon.com. He teaches in the landscape design program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. He lives in Oakmont.