The consistently cooler days of fall have arrived, and the leaves continue to rain down from the trees. Hopefully, you are gathering that brown organic matter and using it to mulch your gardens, adding it to compost piles, and transforming those leaves into soil-enriching goodness. Even though the November garden is entering dormancy, there are still many things to plan for and maintain to keep your gardens thriving year after year.
Our November Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 will guide you through a robust list of garden tasks to keep your gardens healthy, tidy, higher-yielding, and easier to manage when spring arrives.
Garden Planning in Fall
In Zones 4-5, by the time November rolls in, you’ve likely had a few touches of frost set in, and brisk mornings and evenings are plentiful. As you cozy up around the fire pit or have some peaceful moments with some hot cocoa, keep your garden journal close at hand.
Take a walk through your November garden and look back on all that you have accomplished in your garden this year and write down some of your best garden achievements as well as some of the obstacles you encountered that you would not like to repeat.
Here are some things for gardeners in zone 4-5 to think about and plan for as fall comes to a close:
- Get a head start on next spring’s garden! Have your soil tested at the end of the fall garden season! Once you get your results, amend your soil with what it lacks so microorganisms can break these nutrients down and make them available to plants in time for planting.
- Jot down notes on when the first frost date occurred in your area. Make some notes about how your plants faired. Were your frost protection measures effective? Did you get your plants covered in time?
- Think about more season-extending tools such as row covers, hoop houses, and cold frames. Perhaps you can add some of these tools to your toolbox.
- Reflect on the layout of this year’s garden. Adjust your garden layout for next year by sketching out plant placement for next year. Were your gardens overcrowded? Did some plants overshade others? Did plants succumb to certain diseases in a particular spot? Did you lack pollinators? Make adjustments and consider rotating crops for soil and plant health.
- Be certain to jot down where you planted any new perennials or spring-flowering bulbs, so you don’t dig them up unintentionally when spring rolls around.
- Inspired by some hardscape ideas or want to build raised beds or cucumber trellises? Jot down what supplies you might need so that you can work on them over the winter indoors.
- Think about whether or not you utilized your harvest the best you could. Perhaps you might like to add a spiralizer, canning supplies, or dehydrator (to store veggies for winter soups, etc.) to your wish list to diversify the ways that you can store and use your produce.
- Make a note of what pests were a problem in the garden and research organic methods of protecting your future gardens.
- Jot down what the temperatures and rainfall in your area were like and what problems they presented for you.
- Indoor seed starting time will be here before you know it! Assess your seed stock, order seeds, and seed-starting supplies. Consider things like grow lights, heating mats, seed-starting mix, containers, seed storage supplies, and fun seed varieties.
- Reward yourself for a job well done in the garden, and take some time to relax and enjoy the fall and winter seasons.
November Garden Prep and Maintenance
Our November Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 wouldn’t be complete without prep and maintenance tasks. There are many things that you can do in your garden this month that will bolster the health and performance of your future gardens. With a little bit of upkeep, soil building and protection, and general maintenance of tools and garden areas, you’ll be able to close out the growing season without any unfinished business.
- Have row covers at the ready to protect tender plants. Be sure to remove them during the day so that plants receive adequate sunlight.
- Clean up all plant debris to avoid existing pest and disease issues from overwintering in your garden.
- Continue pulling weeds. Winter weeds can take over quickly, so keep up with the task, so you will have fewer pesky weeds come springtime.
- Turn your compost pile to distribute the organic matter and keep it hot. If it has been dry this fall, be sure to water your compost pile as well.
- Improve your soil by adding a layer of compost.
- Avoid having and bare soil in your garden areas. If your vegetable garden will not be in use over the winter and you did not plant a cover crop, mulch all exposed soil. This protects the ground from erosion, enriches the soil, and keeps winter weeds from propagating.
- If you are planning a new garden bed or a hardscape addition, the cooler month of November is the perfect time to do some of the labor involved in the project.
- Allow some leaves to remain on the floor of perennial gardens. Not only will they break down and enrich the soil with organic matter and protect your soil from erosion, but they add much-needed protection for beneficial organisms.
- Do a final leaf blowing of lawns, ensuring that yards are free of leaves and debris before winter sets in.
- Clean, dry, and cover or store lawn furniture.
- If you haven’t done so already, empty your pots and containers, clean them and store them upside down in a garage or shed. This is particularly important for clay or ceramic pots. Water can freeze and expand in the pots and cause them to crack. This includes birdbaths too!
- Be sure that you have drained all the water from your irrigation system lines and hoses. Store them in a protected space.
- Take care of the wildlife in your yard. They will appreciate the food source that you provide them from leaving seed heads on perennial plants and filling bird feeders. Be sure to clean and sanitize bird feeders before setting them out. Assess your supply of winter birdseed and stock up on what you need to get your feathered friends through the long, harsh winter.
- Wrap tender saplings with burlap to protect their trunks from frost cracks and hungry deer.
- Bring in tender houseplants that have been enjoying the summer and early fall outdoors. Remove any diseased leaves, repot them with new soil, and spritz with an organic insecticidal soap before moving indoors to ensure no pests can contaminate other plants. Place them in a sunny window to acclimate to the transition.
November Garden Tool Maintenance
Garden and landscaping tools are significant investments, and they make our jobs as gardeners much easier, so it’s vital to take proper care of them. There is nothing worse than having the tools you are relying on failing you when you need them.
With good care and keeping of your garden tools and equipment, they will be ready for use when you need them and will last for many years to come.
- Wash and sanitize tools.
- Store tools in a safe place away from the elements.
- Sand and apply linseed oil to tool handles.
- Have your chainsaw and lawn mower blades sharpened.
Indoor Fall Planting & Growing
Our November Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 has some fun ideas to keep your harvest rolling in despite the colder temperatures outside. Keep your green thumb active by tending to some indoor herbs and other edibles, so you can have some fresh produce ready for picking through the fall and winter.
- Create an indoor November garden; Sow seeds for kitchen herbs to grow indoors over the winter months.
- Sow lettuce in pots for an indoor winter garden and place by a sunny window or under grow lights, so you can enjoy a healthy harvest all winter long.
- Consider growing microgreens indoors to keep your harvest going.
- Many indoor houseplants will go into dormancy during the fall and winter months. Cease fertilizing during this time and resume in early spring.
Outdoor Fall Planting
- Plant hardy perennials by early November and water them in well.
- Plant cool-season transplant vegetables in cold frames or greenhouses for a winter crop
- Plant garlic and shallots.