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Garden Almanac: 11/01/2015

November Garden Almanac

Time to clean the garden

November is the last month of the garden year – if you take December off. This is the month to clean the garden of spent plants and weeds. Tidying the garden and cleaning it of debris is a good way to ensure insect pests and diseases do not overwinter in your garden.

The soil is cooling now, but there is still time to get shrubs and trees planted ahead of next spring. And if you love wildflowers, November is the month to sprinkle seeds in the spots you would love to see color early next spring – you sprinkle and the winter rains will take care of the rest.

One more thing, this is one of the best months to plant strawberries in the Sonoma Valley. A favorite is “Sequoia” – developed especially for our climate; plant now for sweet strawberries next spring, summer, and fall.

Here is a garden and nature roundup for November:

Annuals: The rainy season, when it comes, begins in November and lasts until the middle of March. Clean the garden of spent summer annuals and add compost to idle garden beds. Collect the seed of heirloom plants for sowing next spring.

Perennials: Clean perennial beds; remove dead and diseased foliage and plants; deadhead spent flowers. Withhold fertilizer until early next spring. Cut chrysanthemums back to just a few inches above the soil once they have finished blooming for this year.

Bulbs: Indoor holiday bulbs – narcissus, amaryllis, crocus, freesias, paperwhites, and tulips – can be forced in vases or bowls filled with water or decorative rocks; start early this month for Thanksgiving.

Roses: Add aged compost to planting beds where you plan to plant roses in early spring. Add compost around the base of existing roses. Bare root roses will be in garden centers soon; plan your purchases. The most fragrant roses include Chrysler Imperial, Sunsprite, Double Delight, Angel Face, and Mr. Lincoln.

Shrubs: Spread aged compost around the base of shrubs; winter rains will take nutrients deep into the soil. Native shrubs can be planted this month; consider toyon, Western redbud, Lavatera, monkeyflower, lemonade berry, Catalina cherry, and Cleveland sage.

Trees: As deciduous trees shed their leaves you can begin to prune away dead and diseased branches. Be careful not to head back flowering trees such as crapemyrtle and saucer magnolia – that is don’t prune the tips of branches; next year’s bloom clusters are at the ends of those branches.

Vegetables and Herbs: Lettuce and other leafy crops should be protected from frost and freezes; place row covers or plastic tunnels over winter leaf crops.

Fruits and Berries: Deciduous fruit trees such as apples, pears, and plums should be sprayed with a canola-based horticultural or dormant oil three times: in autumn after the leaves fall, at the end of December, and just before spring buds swell. Spray peaches with calcium polysulfide.

Native Plants: Look for the bronze masses of California buckwheat along the edges of chaparral paths this month. The leaves of vine maples will be fiery red, and the white globes of snowberry will be in bloom. The western spicebush will be lemon yellow now.

Nature Alerts: This is a good month to visit the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge – access to a walking trail on the levee near the Petaluma River Bridge is easy. One million waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds take up residence in the refuge during the winter. Two endangered species live in the refuge: the California clapper rail and the salt-marsh harvest mouse.

Kenwood Weather Averages: Temperature: Average High 67°F, Average Low 43°F, Mean 55°F; Average Precipitation 4.04 inches; Record High 92°F (1967), Record Low 23°F (1961).

Sunrise and Sunset: Sunrise on the 1st 6:37 a.m., Sunset on the 1st 5:11 p.m. Sunrise on the 30th 7:08 a.m., Sunset on the 30th 4:51 p.m.

Moon: Last quarter/waning on Nov. 3; New on Nov. 11; First quarter/waxing on Nov. 19; Full on Nov. 25.

– Compiled by Steve Albert

Steve Albert is the author of The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide available at He teaches in the landscape design program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. He lives in Oakmont.


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