GARDENING THROUGH THE YEAR – NOVEMBER in USDA Zone 5

It’s COLD outside!

And with nights well below freezing, you might think it’s time to put all thoughts of gardening “to bed” for the winter.

Actually, even here in the land of 10 month winters, there are gardening activities that can be of benefit every single month.

Oh, sure!” you say, “Some people can make things grow year round in their house, but NOT ME!”

True enough, there are ways to keep some flowers and food crops growing all year round in your house, but that’s a subject for another article.

I’m talking about the things you can do now to help make your next summer’s outdoor garden more productive.

First, and foremost in my mind, remember that gardening is truly a “growing experience.”

Growing experiences, in all areas of life, produce better long term results when we take time to write down the lessons we’ve learned.

You may have been keeping something of a gardening journal through the summer, or maybe you started one last spring with the very best intentions of keeping track of all of the important things you did in your garden, when you did them, and what the results were, but then harvest time hit and you were SWAMPED between harvesting the garden, normal daily chores, and getting the children ready for school (or whatever takes your time) and the garden journal sort of fell by the wayside to be updated “tomorrow.”

November makes a fantastic “tomorrow” for those garden notes!

  • What did you plant this year? And be specific on varieties since soil and climate can make a significant difference in the success or failure of many varieties of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Varieties that work well in Richfield, UT may not work at all in Panguitch, UT or Escalante, UT, even though they are relatively close to each other. And your neighbor’s soil can truly be very different from yours so what worked and what didn’t work in YOUR garden this year, and, do you know the reasons for the successes and failures? This is a wonderful time to research causes and cures for whatever might have ailed your garden this past summer!
  • When did you plant each of the varieties, and how many of each (at least approximately) did you plant?
  • What kinds of problems did the plants (and you) have to deal with? For example, an unseasonably late frost, pests, disease, you forgot to water… Or maybe, you, like me a few years ago, had one particular child that never seemed to be able to learn the difference between the vegetables that you planted and the weeds she was supposed to be pulling up? In my case, said child admitted several years into adulthood that she had intentionally pulled up the vegetables instead of the weeds so she could get out of garden chores. Bless her pointed little head! Mom found other work for her, and, (revenge is sweet) she now wishes she had learned from mom. But, enough of that.
  • What were your garden results? Did you get the beautiful flowers you hoped for? Did you get enough vegetables to satisfy your family over the winter? Maybe you got too much of something (cucumbers and zucchini perhaps)?
  • What did you do with the results of your labors? Did you sell them for a profit? Give away the excess? Canning, freezing, dehydrating, freeze-drying and good old-fashioned root cellaring are all wonderful ways to extend your harvest. Maybe you made a zillion jars of a variety of pickled vegetables. Did you try out a solar dehydrator? If so, what was the design like and how well did it work for you?
    • What gardening methods did you use? Traditional rows? Square foot gardening? No-till gardening? Food forest? Etc. Maybe you used a combination of these and other methods. How well did they work out in YOUR garden? What changes and/or new techniques do you want to try next year? And for how much or what plants?

    Alright, enough for the garden journal suggestions. Let’s move on and cover a few additional things you can do for your garden in November.

    Trees, shrubs, and evergreens will benefit from watering until the ground freezes.

    • Mulch over any over-wintering bulbs – flowers, garlic, onions, etc – and around trees to help protect them from deep winter freezes.
    • If you haven’t done a soil analysis yet, this is a good time to do it so you can apply any needed fertilizers, whether chemical or organic.
    • Remove weeds, debris, and any dead or diseased plant matter that could harbor these garden pests over the winter.
    • If you still have leaves in your yard, gather them up, shred them, and add them to your compost bin. If you don’t yet have a compost bin, this is a great time to make one and get started creating compost for next year’s garden!
    • If you have a lawn, keep mowing it as long as the grass is growing because mice and voles LOVE long grass to hide in just as much as they love feasting on your garden.
    • If you have fruit that has dropped from trees or shrubs, be sure to pick it up and add it to the compost.
    • Cover trees and shrubs that may be attractive to deer, unless you don’t mind having them eat your landscaping efforts.
    • Drain outdoor faucets and bring hoses into some kind of shelter. UV is hard on them, and so is having water freeze in them.
    • If you have window boxes, now is the time to clean them.
    • If you appreciate the winter birds, let them know by making sure you have feeders out and well supplied. They also will benefit from a source of fresh water through the winter if you can keep some liquid water in a bird bath at least once a day.
    • Clean and oil your garden tools before putting them away for the winter
    • November can be a superb time to plant new trees and shrubs so they can be off to a good start in the spring. If you do plant some now though, be sure to protect them with a good layer of mulch.
    • If you have houseplants, it’s time to reduce the water and stop fertilizing them. They don’t grow as fast during the winter (unless you use grow lights) as they do in summer so, unless they are located near a heater vent, they don’t need as much water and may get moldy if you over-water.
    • If you have small section of kitchen counter that you can suspend a grow light over, keeping a few herbs in pots can both brighten up your kitchen and improve your winter cooking! Just be sure to protect the counter top from any potential over-watering stains.

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