potting shed

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

- Thomas Hood
-“November”

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Well, Hood’s words are a bit of an exaggeration at the beginning of the month, but by the end, winter is unofficially upon us in the Mid-Atlantic. The grass has taken on a dreary shade of brown and the deciduous trees will stand naked by December 1st. But there are many bright sparks to November, starting with Fuji and Pink Lady apples and ending with the promise of the Advent season. Wrap up warm and don’t let a bit of cold stop the good outside habits you’ve built up over a long summer and fall.

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Outside:

  • This is a great month for incorporating aged horse manure into your soil for extra organic content and some nutritive value.
  • It’s still okay to put in container shrubs and trees – although camellias and magnolias really appreciate a spring planting.
  • Organize your pot ghetto. Make sure that everything there is at least a zone hardier than your zone or you will probably lose it over the winter. Also make sure that leaves and debris are not blocking drainage holes.
  • Put your zone-marginal pots into a cold frame or dig temporary holes for them to inhabit over the winter and increase their chances of survival.
  • November is usually the month you can find half-price fall bulbs for sale, and if you are not too picky, plant them. Even if you are picky, buy tulip and hyacinth bulbs right now in order to store in your garage and force indoors in February next year. One of the loveliest gifts you can give a friend in late winter is a glass with pebbles and a couple bulbs.
  • Fertilize older stands of spring bulbs now.
  • Look around your area and see what is blooming or fruiting and take notes for what to buy next spring. If you do this in early spring too, and follow up with a smart buying spree during the growing season, you can successfully increase your garden’s “season” without having to experiment with timing too much.
  • Make sure those spigots are turned off. I know you put it off last month.

 

Inside:

Start as you mean to go on with your indoor plants. They should be inside by now, and if you just threw them inside, it’s time to sort them out properly:

  • Make sure there is a water-proof saucer under each pot. Water-PROOF. Terracotta saucers don’t count (as my floor will tell you). Ceramic-glazed saucers don’t count (as my floor will also tell you). What you need are the plastic, overpriced, flimsy-but-useful, saucers. Another option is to hunt through the local thrift stores and find large round platters which are usually better quality than a ceramic pot saucer and will last much longer than the plastic ones. Please don’t skip this step – it’s expensive to fix ruined floors and furniture.
  • Make sure you have some water soluble fertilizer under the sink with a convenient watering can nearby in order to easily take care of these guys over the next few months.
  • Organize the area in the garage or basement where you threw the dormant caladium, canna, musa, colocasia, etc… The “rougher” and less-organized this area looks, the more it also resembles trash and the less you are likely to look after it.
  • Buy amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs for December forcing.
  • Buy tulip and hyacinth bulbs for February forcing. Make sure you give them at least 10 weeks in a cold garage or basement first.