The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Still Time to Garden

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

I think we deserve an October do-over. Usually October is a wonderful time to catch up on all the stuff we didn't get done in the spring and to get a jump start on next season. Unless you enjoy working in cold rainy weather it was tough to get excited about gardening last month. Looks like a weather reprieve in November so grab you garden gloves and get busy.

Vegetable garden

  • Clean plant remnants from the garden. Start a compost pile with the leaves and garden debris. Compost diseased material or flowering weeds separately.
  • Spread compost, composted manure or shredded leaves on the garden.
  • Take a soil sample to a soil lab. To take a soil test - Put a trowel-full of soil from 6-8 different areas in the garden into a clean bucket. Mix thoroughly and get the final one cup sample from the mixture. If parts of the garden are specialized into blueberries or have different histories such as where the burn pile was, sample these areas separately. Any needed amendments such as sulfur to lower the pH should be applied now.

Trees and shrubs

  • Major pruning is best left until late winter or early spring. Any early blooming shrubs such as lilac and forsythia are best pruned immediately after blooming.
  • Trees and shrubs can still be planted. Be sure not to plant too deep. Trunk flare of trees should be apparent after planting.
  • Make sure evergreens such as pines, yews and rhododendrons are well watered. As long as soil isn't frozen evergreens should receive about one inch of water every two weeks through rainfall or irrigation.
  • Erect barriers of poultry wire or hardware cloth to protect young trees and shrubs from rabbit and vole damage. Favorite plants on the menu include any newly planted trees and shrubs, blueberries, roses, euonymus, fruit trees, and brambles.


Protect grafted roses. After roses are completely dormant, usually late November, clean around bushes, removing any diseased rose leaves. Pour well drained soil or compost down through the center of the plant to a depth of 8-12 inches. After the soil is frozen, add 6-8 inches of wood chips or shredded leaves over the mound. Or forget all this and buy hardy roses.


Strawberries should be mulched before temperatures go below 20 degrees F which is generally around mid-November. Use a loose mulch of clean wheat straw. To reduce grassy weeds next year, pull the straw apart in the lawn first or in some other area where the seeds can fall and won't be a problem. Apply 2-4 bales of straw per 1000 square feet of bed to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.


  • Perennial flower beds can be mulched, but not too early. Plants should be completely dormant before mulching usually in mid to late November. Mulch should be loose such as wood chips, pine needles, pine boughs or shredded leaves.
  • It's not too late to plant spring flowering bulbs of tulips, daffodils and crocus. Ideally bulbs should be planted as soon as possible, but they can be planted up until the ground freezes. Plant large flowers such as tulips and daffodils at 8 inches deep. Small bulbs of crocus and grape hyacinths are planted 3 inches deep.


Fertilize a final time after the last mowing, usually later in November. University research has shown that late fall fertilization instead of early spring fertilization can minimize lawn disease problems, promote color retention in the fall and encourage early green-up in the spring.

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