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Tips for November gardening

November 04, 2008|By ANNETTE IPSAN

November gardening is not an oxymoron. There are still plenty of things to do to keep your green thumb happy.

First, plant some paperwhites or amaryllis in pots so they will bloom in time for the holidays. The bulbs are popping up everywhere in local garden centers. Paperwhites are gloriously fragrant and amaryllis come in myriad colors and forms. Both make handsome decorations and gifts.

Next, turn all those leaves tumbling from the trees into gardening gold. Layer them with grass clippings, plant trimmings and food scraps in a 3-by-3-foot pile to start a compost pile. In the spring you will have a great start to a soil amendment that improves soil and plant health.

Chopped leaves make wonderful natural mulch. Try running over them with your mower, blowing them into a planting bed 2 or 3 inches deep. They will help hold moisture, even soil temperature and add valuable organic matter to the soil.


Use those branches that have blown down to make a brush pile for wildlife. Put the larger pieces on the bottom and smaller pieces on the top. You'll be creating valuable cover and resting places for creatures great and small.

Did you plant trees and shrubs this year? It's important to make sure they go into the winter well hydrated. Give them a good slow, deep soak once a week through Thanksgiving and they will be set to survive winter's chill.

If you're still cutting back perennials, curb your tendency to snip everything. Leave a few things standing to provide cover for wildlife and to shelter beneficial insects' overwintering eggs.

If you haven't planted all those tempting end-of-season plant bargains yet, don't worry. You can still save them by tucking them into a protective blanket of mulch, compost or chopped leaves. Just sink them into a pile of natural material in a spot protected from winter winds. I've saved dozens of plants this way.

While the gardening season is still fresh in your memory, stroll around the yard and make some notes for next year. Did your perennial bed lack fall color? Plan to add a few dazzlers. Is that maple tree shading the corner of a bed? Make a note to thin it with a few pruning cuts in February or to shuffle in some plants that prefer shade.

Did your iris bloom sporadically? Plan to divide them next year for vigor. Did your Autumn Joy sedum flop over? Make a note to pinch them back in late June for lower, fuller plants that don't collapse.

Is there a view in your garden that you don't like? Plan to create a screen with plants, fencing or a trellis. Do you need a comfortable place to rest after a hard day's work, complete with a great view? Jot it down and make bench shopping a winter project.

Lastly, pat yourself on the back for the great job you did in the garden this year. You worked hard. Many plants thrived and delighted you with their color, fragrance and form. Be proud and give your green thumb a much-deserved winter rest.

Annette Ipsan is the Extension educator for horticulture and the Master Gardener program in Washington County for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. She can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1604, or by e-mail at

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