This time of year, gardens are entering a season of rest—for both the gardener and the land. However, even now in November, there are still a few easy plants you can put in to set your garden up for spring success.
Plant Shrubs & Trees
Fall is a wonderful time to plant shrubs and trees because it gives roots a good amount of time to establish a strong root system. Shrubs and trees fare much better in cool weather than hot. So the more time they have to “move into” their new location and before the threat of heat, the better.
If planted too close to a period of heat, they just don’t have the resources to survive. Getting the plants in the ground just before they become dormant is the safest way to ensure their survival.
Because of cooler temps in the fall, less watering is required, giving the gardener a break. Weeds are also less maintenance in the fall.
Although you won’t see much top growth during the fall or winter out of your shrubs or trees, they will be more prepared to flourish in the spring. Many shrubs and trees have proven to bloom two weeks earlier if they are planted in the fall.
Plant Cover Crops
Garden beds are depleted at this point in the year from growing all spring and Summer. If you planned for a fall garden, it is most likely still producing. However, if you have open beds, they need to start preparing for spring now.
Fall and winter weather can wreak havoc on garden beds. The wind will cause erosion and deplete nutrients from the soil. Bacteria and fungi can still be present and grow in soil during the winter. If garden beds are left empty in the winter, they can become host to pests, diseases and weeds.
Cover crops will aid in suppressing all of that negative activity.
Cover crops fill the bed in a way that protects soil from erosion, keeping healthy nutrients and microbes flourishing and preventing weeds. When planted around November, many plants will even stay green throughout the winter, enhancing the aesthetic of your garden as well.
Different cover crops help garden soil in various ways, and you will want to research what is best for your area. At Porter Valley Ranch, we choose to plant crimson clover, because it is low maintenance and highly beneficial. Crimson clover is a legume and adds nitrogen to the soil for the spring.
It is a nutrient scavenger and brings nutrients up from deep in the soil, preferring sandy, loamy soil. In the spring, if there are not enough significant freezes, the clover can be terminated and added back into the soil via a weed eater. If it was a harsh winter, Crimson clover will simply winterkill.
Either way the cover crop will have done its job and be easy to turn back into the soil in time to start planting for spring.
Read more: Cover crops are a powerhouse tool for building healthy soil.
It may seem counterintuitive to add annuals to your landscape or beds right now. However, pansies complement all fall plants and can survive dropping temperatures.
They may take a break in the winter (depending on your weather) but rebloom early in the spring to also compliment spring flowers, giving you the most mileage out of all annual plantings. Some pansies can even be seen still blooming during snow!
They will gradually die out in later spring as temperatures surpass 65, but for an annual they are well worth the investment. Aside from the practicality of the flower, they are absolutely beautiful, with a subtle fragrance. They are offered in a kaleidoscope of colors and produce billowy blooms.
Daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, irises, lilies, ranunculus are all spring favorites! These plants, along with several others, need to be planted now, in November, to show their blooms in spring.
Bulbs require a long period of cool temperatures to ignite the chemical process that causes them to flower. They need to be planted before it freezes and tucked in for the winter.
Most bulbs will come back year after year. Make sure to research what is best for your area for continual success. Also pay attention to planting instructions. Living plants put in, in November will be developing and preparing all winter long and need to be positioned correctly to work best.