Monthly Tips and Tasks

  • Continue watering evergreens until the ground freezes. Soils must not be dry when winter arrives.
  • Now is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Before digging the hole, prepare the site by loosening the soil well beyond the drip line of each plant. Plant trees and shrubs at the depth they grew in the nursery and not deeper. Remove all wires, ropes and non-biodegradable materials from roots before back filling. Apply a 2-3 inch mulch layer, but stay several inches away from the trunk. Keep the soil moist, not wet, to the depth of the roots.
  • Remove the spent flowers and foliage of perennials after they are damaged by frost.
  • Newly planted broad-leaf evergreens such as azaleas, boxwood and hollies benefit from a burlap screen for winter wind protection. Set screen stakes in place before the ground freezes.
  • Now is a good time to observe and choose nursery stock based on fall foliage interest.
  • Plant tulips now.
  • Mums can be cut back to within several inches of the ground once flowering ends. After the ground freezes, apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of loose mulch such as pine needles, straw or leaves.
  • Mulch flower and bulb beds after the ground freezes, to prevent injury to plants from frost heaving.
  • Roses should be winterized after a heavy frost. Place a 6 to 10-inch deep layer of mulch over each plant. Top soil works best. Prune sparingly, just enough to shorten overly long canes. Climbers should not be pruned at this time.
  • Take steps to prevent garden pools from freezing solid in winter. Covering pools with an insulating material or floating a stock tank water heater in the pond will lessen the chance of ice damage.
  • Covering garden pools with bird netting will prevent leaves from fouling the water. Oxygen depletion from rotting organic matter can cause winter kill of pond fish.
  • Fall tilling the vegetable garden exposes many insect pests to winter cold, reducing their numbers in next year's garden.
  • Any unused, finished compost is best tilled under to improve garden soils.
  • To prevent insects or diseases from overwintering in the garden, remove and compost all plant debris.
  • Overcrowded or unproductive rhubarb plants can be divided now.
  • Root crops such as carrots, radishes, turnips and Jerusalem artichokes store well outdoors in the ground. Just before the ground freezes, bury these crops under a deep layer of leaves or straw. Harvest as needed during winter by pulling back this protective mulch.
  • For Thanksgiving, weave a holiday wreath of garlic, onions, chili peppers and herbs. It will make a gourmet gift for a lucky friend.
  • Keep mulches pulled back several inches from the base of fruit trees to prevent bark injury from hungry mice and other rodents.
  • Harvest pecans when they start to drop from trees. Shake nuts onto tarps laid on the ground.
  • Fallen, spoiled or mummified fruits should be cleaned up from the garden and destroyed by burying.
  • A dilute whitewash made from equal parts interior white latex paint and water applied to the southwest side of young fruit trees will prevent winter sun scald injury.
  • Commercial tree guards or protective collars made of 18-inch high hardware cloth will prevent trunk injury to fruit trees from gnawing rabbits and rodents.
  • Mulch strawberries for winter with straw. This should be done after several nights near 20 degrees, but before temperatures drop into the teens. Apply straw loosely, but thick enough to hide plants from view.
  • Now is a good time to collect soil samples to test for pH and nutritional levels.
  • Roll up and store garden hoses on a warm, sunny day. It's hard to get a cold hose to coil into a tight loop.
  • To prevent injury to turf grasses, keep leaves raked up off of the lawn.
  • Continue mowing lawn grasses as long as they keep growing.
  • A final fall application of fertilizer can be applied to bluegrass and fescue lawns now.
  • Clean house gutters of leaves and fallen debris before cold wet weather sets in.
  • Set up bird feeders. Birds appreciate a source of unfrozen drinking water during the winter.
  • Be sure to shut off and drain any outdoor water pipes or irrigation systems that may freeze during cold weather.
  • For cyclamen to bloom well indoors, they need cool temperatures in the 50-60 degree range, bright light, evenly moist soils, and regular fertilization.
  • Reduce or eliminate fertilizing of houseplants until spring.

November Pests and Problems

  • Continue to inspect indoor plants closely for insect pests such as aphids, spider mites, scale, and whitefly.
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Aphids - Indoors
Aphids (Hemiptera) are a common problem on indoor plants. Sticky honeydew on leaves is a common first sign that they are present. 
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Spider Mites - Indoors
Close-up of two-spotted spider mite (Acari) on angel's trumpet (Brugmansia); includes adults, immatures and eggs 
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Scale Insects - Indoors
Close-up of scale (Hemiptera) on frond of kentia palm (Howia

  • Also check for whitefly, mealybugs and thrips. Treat if necessary.
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Whitefly - Indoors
Whitefly (Hemiptera) on underside of fuchsia leaf (Fuchsia
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Mealybug - Indoors
Mealybug (Hemiptera) colony on coleus (Solenostemon
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Thrips - Indoors
Close-up of cuban laurel thrips (Thysanoptera) on leaves of a weeping fig (Ficus benjamina

  • Fertilize cool-season lawns to promote good root growth and reduce problems next year. Also fertilizing trees and shrubs in late fall can enhance recovery of plants stressed by drought this past summer.
  • Check trees and shrubs in your yard for “volcano” mulching - mulch piled high around the base or trunk of the plant. If found, pull back the mulch from the trunk and create a “donut” instead – little or no mulch against the base or trunk of the plant. A heavy layer of mulch around the base can lead to girdling roots as well as foster insect, disease, and rodent problems.
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Girdling Roots
Girdling root on maple (Acer
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Girdling Roots
Close-up of mulch volcano 



  • Hold off applying your winter mulch to roses until after a hard frost (below 24 degrees F.).
  • Remove and dispose of the foliage of plants such as roses, peonies, iris, daylilies, apples, horsechestnut, which are subject to annual fungal leaf diseases.
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Peony Blotch
Peony blotch on peony (Paeonia
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Black Spot of Rose
Yellowing rose (Rosa) leaves with black spots are characteristic of black spot of rose 
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Apple Scab
Yellowing leaves and spots caused by apple scab on crabapple (Malus

  • Water evergreens well in dry weather to reduce or prevent winter browning of foliage resulting from drying winds.
  • Water mums well going into winter. Spent flower heads may be removed to tidy the plants, but do not cut stems back to the ground until new growth begins in March. The dead tops help protect the plants during winter.
  • Warm weather followed by sudden freezing temperatures can result in damage to plants. There is little one can do to prevent these natural occurrences but it may explain why a plant had dieback or dead areas going into winter or next spring or early summer.
  • If a soil test indicates your soil pH needs to be raised or lowered, now is a good time to apply either lime or sulfur as required to correct the condition. Do not apply lime or sulfur without first testing the soil’s pH.
  • After leaves have fallen, galls on twigs and stems may be very evident. There are few, if any, really effective controls available.
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Gouty, Horned and other Twig Galls
Gouty oak gall on oak (Quercus) caused by a wasp (Hymenoptera)