What to Do in the November Garden


Here in Norfolk VA, we usually receive our first frost around early to mid November. So this makes the early fall an excellent time to get in some maintenance before Mr. Frost hits.

Personally, I love to garden in autumn. No, there’s not as much action going on around me as in the mid summer months. But, it is so nice to be able to work away without sweat dripping in my eyes. The chilled bite in the air on your face and the cool feel of the earth in your hands are really exhilarating.

In Norfolk, I live in zone 7b, so the maintenance varies a bit from what you should do it you live in zones 6 and below, those that receive frost early and frequently. However, there are some basic garden maintenance tips that you should complete, regardless of the zone you live in.

Basic November Gardening Tips:

  • Rake up fallen leaves from your lawn and garden and add them to your compost pile.
  • Cover up your compost bin, or use one with a lid, in order to keep fall rain storms from flooding it and leaching out the nutrients.
  • Cut back your perennials (you can wait until after the first frost to do this.)
  • Continue to weed and also to remove dead and withered foliage.
  • Add humus (finished compost) to your garden beds to replenish the soil with nutrients.
  • Clean, sharpen, oil, and safely store all of your gardening tools. Well cared-for tools will last you a lifetime.

Gardening Tips for Zones that Do Not Receive Frost (9-11):

  • November is a great time to plant trees, such as camellias and tropical fruit trees.
  • Insects don’t really hibernate or die off in your climate, so keep an eye out for garden pests.
  • If you live in a warm climate, you have a good opportunity to explore perennial vegetables and fruits. If you have planted perennial edibles, such as mangoes or coconuts, make sure to continue to water and fertilize them.
  • Prune your flowering trees after they drop their blossoms.
  • Plant bulbs that do not require a cold period, such as amaryllis, calla lily, freesia, homeria, lilies, sparaxis, watsonia, and garlic. Warm zones and borderline zones, such as the Pacific NW, can plant asparagus now. This is also a good time for you to plant perennial herbs.

Gardening Tips for Cold Zones (6 and below):

  • If you live in an area where deer may be foraging during the winter, it’s time to protect your trees from them. Create a circle around your trees with stakes and jute.
  • Make sure all of the water is drained out of your hose, roll it up, and store it. Do not leave it connected to your house in freezing weather.
  • Water your plants and shrubs until the ground freezes.
  • Make sure you have adequate amounts of mulch around young trees. Do not, however, mound mulch right up against the tree trunk. Leave a moat with the width of a couple inches.
  • Remember to frequently fill your bird feeders, as food becomes scarce when winter approaches.

Zone 7b (where I live) Gardening Tips:

  • I like to plant edibles throughout October and even into November. Some good cool season edibles are kale, cabbage, lettuce, chard, mustard greens, and brussels sprouts. The flavor of kale and brussels sprouts are actually improved by a light frost. All of these cool season crops also grow well in borderline zones.
  • I continue to tend to my herbs in the fall- and most of them keep producing. My rosemary thrives right on through the winter.
  • Up until the ground freezes, you can continue to plant perennials in zone 7b.
  • After the first freeze, prune back your rose bushes.
  • This is a good time to plant snowdrop bulbs, which will then bloom in early winter. You can also plant your other spring blooming bulbs now, such as daffodils.

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