Teague: Light gardening work on tap for November

FresnoNovember 8, 2013 

November is a quiet month in the garden-with a short list of garden chores.

Summer-blooming bulbs (dahlias, gladiolas, oriental lilies, etc.) need to be stored overwinter in a cool, dry place. If your bulbs are planted directly into garden soil that will get soaked from winter rainfall or kept wet from supplemental irrigation, they may rot. Summer bulbs can be lifted and then stored in the unheated garage or outdoors in a sheltered spot. The bulbs should be covered with sawdust, potting soil or garden soil to prevent freeze damage. Stick a label on the container to remind you of bulb type, flower color and bloom season.

Lift dahlias, cut stems to two to three inches high and repot the tubers into garden or potting soil at the same depth they were previously planted (usually an inch or two below soil level). Next spring, resume watering when the tubers send up new shoots and transplant the dahlias into the garden when the stems are a few inches high.

Our long, hot summer and brief spell of cool fall temperatures causes spring-blooming bulbs (daffodils, narcissus, tulips, etc.) to go off their normal growth and flowering schedule. It's not uncommon for spring bulbs to send up leaves and to flower in November here.

Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of bulb food or bone meal over bulb leaf tips as soon as they appear. If they flower this fall, it's unlikely that spring bloomers will flower again on time next season, but the leaves will have had ample green growing time to provide food for the bulbs.

Store-bought or florist chrysanthemums can easily be transplanted into the garden this fall after they've finished blooming indoors. Many potted flowering plants (hydrangeas, azaleas, calla lilies) are forced into bloom out of their normal season by manipulation of temperature and light in the greenhouse. Most are severely root bound and it can take a year or two for out-of-season potted flowering plants to flower at the normal time.

Chrysanthemums, bought now, will be flowering in season and are less likely to be root bound. Buy chrysanthemums with at least one-third unopened buds to prolong the bloom period; keep the plants away from heat sources indoors and check soil moisture levels regularly to prevent the potting medium from drying out.

When all the flowers have faded, cut the stems to six inches high and transplant the mums into a sunny spot in the garden with good soil drainage. If the root ball is compacted, break it apart gently by hand. Don't fertilize until new growth appears next spring.

The only other regular chores this November are to keep the garden clean of debris and fallen leaves and to monitor for hungry snails and slugs, especially after it rains.


Elinor Teague is a Fresno County master gardener. Send her plant questions at etgrow@comcast.net or features@fresnobee.com ("plants" in the subject line).

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