November Gardening Tasks

Every now and then it occurs to me that this blog should be more…. useful?… and as I was sitting there with a nice cozy blanket watching Gardener’s World I noticed the weekly ‘things to do in the garden’ segment, and thought to myself what an easy idea to steal.  So let me start by saying you’re welcome and just jump right in.

november perennial border

Not much to see along the street anymore but I try to leave a few things uncut to keep it from looking too desolate.

My first thoughts in the morning went to the dozens of unplanted daffodils and perennial seedlings which have been sitting around for weeks, so…

1.  Stand by the back door with a cup of coffee and imagine how nice it will all look someday when things finally grow or plants finally get moved.  After 20 minutes you may prefer to lean on the other side of the door and imagine changes to the other side of the view.  Keep in mind you might want to do this first thing in the morning since it’s easier to ignore a messy room and far less possible to be “redirected” when there’s no one else there.

amsonia autumn color

Most of the fall colors have faded to blah, but the Amsonia is finally showing some of the yellow it’s supposed to show each year.  Fyi mine rarely does this.

2.  Sit down at the computer since it’s still not all that warm out and look up plants on the internet.  Look up other plants, look at other people’s plants, think about how those plants would look in your garden, think how you can fit them all in and then search out who has them for sale.  Stop just short of ordering them, there’s plenty of time for that in January…. unless it’s a clearance sale on bulbs of course.  Order those and don’t even think about the unplanted ones in the garage.

zone 6 hardy cardoon

My best cardoon did not appreciate the recent 24F night.  I’m still hoping it proves hardy this winter. 

3.  Make a second cup of coffee and go outside.  If it’s warm enough in the sun make sure you take advantage with a little more sitting, otherwise shuffle around the garden and look at every single plant especially the ones which look the same as yesterday.  Don’t put your coffee down to do anything, you’ll forget where you left it.


The potager is looking quite neat with mulched beds and some of the frosted veggies removed.  Just looking at it hurts my lazy bone, and I’m honestly not sure who did all this work.

4.  Return the empty coffee cup to the kitchen.  When you do remember to cross these tasks off your list since having a list and crossing things off is super important when organizing.  Sometimes I do more than just cross out, I completely black out the task since it’s done and over.  No one needs to judge your past, just make sure they see you’re accomplishing things and then redirect them to the future.

fall crop cabbage

A few cabbages yet to be harvested.  Don’t lose your nerve and rush out in the dark to pick the biggest one after everything’s been freezing for the last day and a half, since frozen cabbage stems are dangerously hard to cut while holding a flashlight and watching a dog.

5.  Grab the planting trowel and head out to plant some bulbs.  As you pass the witch hazel, stop and spend at least half an hour picking off the yellowed leaves so that they don’t sit on it all winter and then interfere with the flowers as they open in January.  When you’re almost done give up and wander off to look for the trowel.

lycoris in zone 6

Lycoris radiata and Lycoris houdyshelii, both not likely to do more than just survive in this zone (if I’m lucky) and both kind of expensive to experiment with but there they are.

6.  Forget you were looking for the trowel when you pass the camellia.  See if the buds have grown any (they haven’t) since the last time you looked and then check the 10 day forecast to see when you next have to drag the pot into the garage for the night.  Pull a few other things out of the garage again since the weather looks nice and they can use a few more days of sun before the long, dark winter.

cyclamen coum in pots

In and out the Cyclamen coum go as I try to get them as much sun and fresh air before committing them permanently to the winter garden.  Hmmmmm.  I thought I had so many, but now I see it’s not nearly enough.

7.  Look at the unplanted bulbs and then decide to mow the lawn.  Sure with a self-propelling mower it’s basically the same as the back and forth wandering you were doing before, but no one accuses you of doing nothing when you’re mowing the lawn, plus there were a few new leaves on it and better to capture them for mulch before they blow off to the neighbor’s.

8.  Clean out the garage.  Just kidding.  It’s far too late in the day and you should always have something left on the list for next time.  Plus something really ambitious like this as a leftover will really make all the darkened out ‘finished’ tasks even more impressive.

So there you have it.  Hopefully this was amazingly useful and helped organize your time somewhat and gets you ready for the upcoming week and approaching holiday.  Follow me for more awesome tips but don’t expect those bulbs to get in the ground anytime soon.  I suspect there will be demands for Christmas lights and absolutely no one wants to hear about unplanted daffodils after returning from  a Longwood Christmas so Christmas lights it is.  Have a great week.

24 comments on “November Gardening Tasks

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Thanks for the smiles and laughs, Frank, seriously, we need it. Longwood Gardens at Christmas… I’m so envious. Can’t wait to see the post (I’m still dreaming about the mums and that yellow salvia). Now don’t forget to plant those bulbs…if you start now, you ought to be done by January. 😉

    • bittster says:

      Well, the good news is that I’m still on track for January, but the bad news is that I haven’t done anything for weeks! Christmas decorating is much more fun, and I’m much more likely to get a helping hand hanging lights than I am to get help digging.
      Weird. They used to dig holes all over the yard looking for worms, and I though for sure that would come in handy some day. 🙂

  2. That was great! Monty should be proud of you.

  3. Cathy says:

    Ha ha! Some excellent advice there Frank! Our Christmas lights need to go up too, but my tip is to get everyone involved and delegate! 😉 (i.e I do the little potted tree and my partner does the stuff on the ladder!)

  4. Ian Lumsden says:

    Sitting at the computer looking at plants, leaving the garage until another day and that coffee …. I’ve certainly been there. Yesterday, as it happens.

    • bittster says:

      haha, sometimes I like to think of it as practice for retirement. I hear stories of people who fear retiring and aren’t quite sure what they’ll do when they get there, and I just want to make sure I’m ready and able!

  5. Paddy Tobin says:

    One could always sit indoors with the coffee and simply take the orders, and the list, from the head gardener!

    • bittster says:

      🙂 That of course is another excellent suggestion, but I’m afraid if I let that happen I’d be cleaning out a closet and trying of clothes and sitting for a haircut. She has much different ideas on what needs sprucing up around here, and it’s not the garden.

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Bahhahahahaahah. This sounds like many of my chore days. I do have my bulbs planted but the flower beds don’t look so nice and neat due to me leaving the leaves on them. A good time for strolling and making lists. Yes, I love those lists and the little check marks made by them or best of all the strike throughs. Cheers and have a great holiday.

    • bittster says:

      Hi Lisa, hope your Thanksgiving was enjoyably restful 🙂
      I would leave the leaves but they’re all in the wrong spots, and I hate to waste them on plants which will do just fine without. Of course I don’t have nearly as many as I want, that would be a different story and I think it would include a lot of time standing by the window hoping for a strong gale to blow them all out of the yard!
      Funny story is that I saw my neighbor picking up leaves from the yard yesterday and asked her what was going on. Turns out her brother was ‘disgusted’ by how many fell and refused to clean them up for her like he normally does. In my generosity I offered to mow them all up for her this weekend. I’ve been secretly coveting all the leaves on her lawn but would never offer to help her ass of a brother clean them up. I’m fine helping her though, and problem is now solved! Hopefully all goes well I’ll have plenty of leaf mulch 🙂

  7. Tim C says:

    well done — although your list of goals and accomplishments is a bit daunting. Imagine moving pots in and out of the garage on the whims of weather! Maybe — if I’d ever built that rolling shelving system.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t think I have nearly as many pots to move as you do… of course that’s ignoring trays of cyclamen because they only count as four trays, not 40 pots 🙂
      A rolling shelving system doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all!

  8. Thank goodness it’s snowing and the temps are only in the 30s. Makes it so easy to just look out the window. We kept waiting for that warm day to clean the garage before winter but somehow we did other things when the nice weather briefly returned. You will be glad to know all my tools etc are in a dirty jumble in my wheelbarrow, for the duration it would appear. If I have a free moment I am online buying gardening books. Just this morning heard from a friend who can get me wholesale flats (32 plugs) of Carex pennsylvanica at a nice price. I think 4 should do it. Or maybe 6. I’ve got all winter to exercise and get ready to plant them. Have a safe and pleasant holiday.

    • bittster says:

      I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well… and didn’t order too many flats for spring planting!
      You had plenty of other things going on this past autumn to waste time with a garage cleanout, and somehow I also suspect it’s not nearly as bad as you might imply! -oh and I really am happy to hear that you have a dirty jumble of tools in a wheelbarrow, I would have never even thought and it does makes me feel a little less slothful.

  9. March Picker says:

    Such a great read, Frank! We all need another shot of humor right about now, and I thank you! So many of us can relate so well…

    • bittster says:

      Thanks. There’s been a lot of “contemplation” time this year and I hope people do more of it this winter. Surprisingly it hasn’t been as productive as I would have though, but it’s good to know I’m not alone.

  10. rusty duck says:

    Thank you Frank. I feel so much better about myself now.
    I shall cancel the therapist, put the money I saved into the plant budget and see you next week for the Christmas lights.
    Have a great weekend!

    • bittster says:

      I’m always impressed by how clever a budgeter you are. I shall also put a few dollars into the plant budget for saved therapy costs, it seems only fair.

  11. Cathy says:

    Great – got all excited when I saw your picture of the Amsonia – the very reason I sowed it in spring. Then I saw your fyi! You made me really laugh throughout. Thank YOU! At least you didn’t mention my favourite – adding a task to your list that you didn’t actually have to do – only so that you can immediately cross it off and feel better! Happy Thanksgiving.

    • bittster says:

      Hahahaha, I do the same!! It does feel better when you look at that undone list and then quickly add a few of the ‘other’ things you actually did do… just so you can immediately cross them off. I love that 🙂
      I hope the Amsonia does well for you. It doesn’t mind a dry, droughty spot at all so the way your summers have been going it should fit right in!

  12. I wrote a couple of posts about fall tasks — neither as entertaining as yours, Frank. And I wish I had read this and taken your advice before I lost my favorite coffee cup! Thank you for a great read! P.x

    • bittster says:

      That’s funny about the lost cup. Mine usually turn up a few days later but it’s the clippers that really get me. I bought a new pair of secateurs this spring and then promptly lost them… even with their bright red handles and shiny new steel. Four months later and they’re back. Quite rusty and the handles are completely dingy but I’m still glad to have them back.
      Why couldn’t I lose the already rusted pair instead?

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