Gardening chores are few and light during November – a little pruning or pre-pruning, a little pest control and continued cleanup of garden debris should help maintain control of plant, pest and disease problems and still leave time for holiday fun.
Various species of deciduous trees and bushes lose their leaves at varying times during winter. Chinese pistache, sycamores and peach/nectarine trees tend to lose their leaves first; crape myrtles and Japanese maples are among the last to lose theirs. Scheduling tree and bush pruning in the order that your trees lose their leaves will spread the hard work of pruning over the short winter season.
Roses often do not go dormant and lose all their leaves during our warm, mild winters. We need to remove all new buds, flowers and new growth in November to force roses into dormancy. Stripping the green leaves off roses is time-consuming, but you can wait until the leaves have all turned brown a few weeks after removing the new growth and then use a blast of water from the hose to knock off the remaining leaves. You can also pre-prune roses in November by cutting back stems by one-third and by pruning out canes that cross through the interior, cutting off suckers at the base and removing any weak, diseased or broken growth. You’ll already be half done with the major winter rose pruning with this first step.
Clean up all leaf and twig litter underneath pruned trees and bushes and remove all weeds (they’re hiding places for overwintering insects and their eggs). Spray fully dormant trees and bushes with horticultural oil to smother soft-bodied insects and their eggs. Spraying oils in winter really reduces the summertime populations of aphids, whiteflies, mites and scales. Horticultural oils should be applied when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Spray to drench all bark surfaces, making sure the oil soaks into bark crevices, and spray the cleaned soil surface under the tree or bush as well. (Neem oil, which is both a pesticide and a fungicide, is best applied during warmer weather.)
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There are many good pruning how-to videos now on the Internet, but I prefer to take a book or guide into the garden with me to refer to as I work. Ortho’s “All About Pruning” was the best guide but is now out of print. Used copies are available and inexpensive at major online book retailers.
Continue water conservation efforts by adjusting automatic irrigation timers to the mandated once-a-week winter watering schedule and by turning automatic irrigation off when it rains. Lawn areas will need little or no additional water this winter. Drought-stressed mature landscape trees that were deeply irrigated a few weeks ago may require additional deep irrigation, depending on rainfall amounts. Check soil moisture levels before irrigating and water plants only when the top three or four inches of soil is dry. Container plants will need more frequent irrigation; well mulched planting beds may not need any additional water this winter.
Send Elinor Teague plant questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (“plants” in the subject line).