November To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

November’s fall color on display in Durham, NC. (Image credit: Melinda Heigel)

October 2022. Bah! Humbug! Now, normally I love October. I mean, I’m an October Scorpio. Why wouldn’t I love October? Two words: back surgery. THAT is why this October pretty much sucked here. Not being of a sedentary nature normally, I have patiently (mostly, anyway) endured my enforced inactivity.

The Accidental Cottage Garden looks truly sad from lack of attention since mid-September. On the bright side, I learned at EMG College that leaving spent flowers and their stems standing is, in fact, a good thing. Dried seedheads provide valuable nutrition to birds and the stems become vital habitats where beneficial insects lay eggs and overwinter. Who knew? My Grandma said the stems had to go asap after the blooms faded. Do you want to argue with my Grandma (or yours)? Ain’t going there. Please find below a Grandma approved to do calendar for November.


Leaf removal is job #1.1 If your lawn consists of warm season grass (Bermuda, zoysia, centipede), that’s about all you need to know. These grasses will soon be going dormant not to be heard from until spring. Should you have cool season grass (tall fescue, bluegrass, perennial rye) that you are still mowing (3″- 4”) and either bagging or mulching clippings and leaves (preferably the latter), bagged debris should be composted. The landfill doesn’t need them. If you overseeded or started a new lawn, be sure it gets ½” of water twice a week at a minimum.


Pretty much zilch here. You can add lime to correct a low pH (<6.0) at a rate indicated on the SOIL TEST results you received from NCDOA. (Come on! They’re still free until the end of the month, y’all. The following link provides more information about soil testing: Lime is best incorporated into the soil as it doesn’t move through the soil to the root zone very well.


Don’t miss out this month! It’s one of the best times of year to plant, especially for trees and shrubs. (Image credit: NC State Cooperative Extension)

Have I ever mentioned, “FALL IS FOR PLANTING” before? Trees and shrubs can be transplanted this month. It is not too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs (daffodils, tulips, crocuses, etc.), but try to complete this task before the end of the month. One-year-old asparagus crowns can be transplanted now.


Ahh, the perennial garden. Any day now, if it hasn’t happened already, Jack Frost or his insidious sibling Harriet Hardfreeze will drop in for a visit and finish any destruction not previously inflicted by Minerva Moisturestress. After that you can prune stuff back to its over-wintering rosette or the ground depending on species. Dead or diseased wood can be trimmed from trees and shrubs. When removing entire branches make the pruning cuts at the outer edge of the branch collar (the flair at the base of the branch) to promote quicker healing. It is a good time to clean up the rest of the garden and landscape in general. You can yank weeds and
other undesirable plants (the definition of a weed) and toss ‘em in the compost pile.


If you’ve been doing battle with lace bugs all summer hit ‘em with a good dose of horticultural oil and put the sprayer away…well, clean it first, of course. (Might I suggest moving the offending azaleas to a less sunny location in the yard. They are an understory plant and are stressed when in full sun thereby inviting the lace bugs which prefer stressed plants. That’s your cause-and-effect lesson for this month.)


Take a leaf hike in your neighborhood or local park.

Make a leaf pile for your kids or grandkids to play in.

Invite the neighbors over for an evening around the fire pit. Hot cider and donuts are not optional.

Enjoy the last few user-friendly days of 2022. They are numbered at this point. May you have a wondrous Thanksgiving shared with people you love.


1–While leaf cleanup is the quintessential fall task, there is a growing movement to “Leave Your Leaves.” This campaign focuses on moving leaves to areas in your landscape where they will benefit wildlife like butterflies, bees, and moths who overwinter in the leaf litter and also help promote healthy soil through their decomposition. For tips, visit New Hope Audubon Society’s page on this movement


Resources and Additional Information

Want to learn more about protecting overwintering habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects in your landscape? The Xerces Society, which focuses on invertebrate conservation, offers more fascinating information on their site.

Now is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension offers several great videos on bulb selection, planting tips, maintenance, and potential pests.

If you are taking a leaf hike and marveling at all the gorgeous fall color, take time to identify leaves that are new to you. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension offers a comprehensive site with several tree identification tools.

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