University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
CLEANING BIRD FEEDERS AND OTHER
NOVEMBER GARDENING TIPS
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Cleaning bird feeders, spreading mulch, and planting paperwhite narcissus
are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Clean bird feeders before winter bird feeding begins. Old or moldy
seeds in the bottom of feeders can harbor diseases that may harm birds.
Scrub with a brush and rinse thoroughly. Disinfect with a bleach solution as
you do for pots (one part bleach to nine parts water). Now is a great month
to look for sales on bird seed and stock up for winter.
Spread winter mulch around established plants once the ground has frozen. If
you mulch too soon, it will keep the soil warmer longer. This can
delay dormancy in plants that you want to go dormant so they aren't caught
by surprise when winter arrives.
The exceptions to late mulching are bulb beds, including those for garlic,
and newly planted perennials. After you plant bulbs, spread mulch on
top to help keep the soil warmer longer to allow for more root growth this
fall. Roots will continue to grow until the soil temperature drops below
about 40 degrees (F). If you have bulbs, but haven't gotten around to
planting yet, do so soon. It is definitely better to plant now rather
than wait until spring. Or you can plant in pots to keep cool (around
40 degrees), then force into early bloom in spring.
Paperwhites are those narcissus bulbs with fragrant white flowers often seen
during the holidays. You'll find their bulbs for sale now.
Choose a container with no drainage holes, fill it with gravel, and set the
bulbs so the top third pokes above the gravel. Add water until it's just
below the base of the bulbs because the bulbs will send down roots into the
water. Make sure bulbs aren’t submerged into the water. Or, plant the
paperwhite bulbs in a shallow container filled with potting soil. Placing
the container in a cool (50 to 60 degrees F.), bright room is best for
rooting and sturdier stems . Plants should bloom four to six weeks from the
Houseplants that summered outdoors may have brought in freeloaders that are
now multiplying like crazy in our heated homes. Inspect the undersides of
the leaves for webbing of spider mites. Leaf axils (where they attach to the
stems) are favorite hiding places of the white, cottony mealybugs.
Dark-colored scale insects hug the stems and veins of the leaves and can be
invisible unless you look closely. Insecticidal soap is most effective on
soft-bodied insects like spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. Horticultural
oil is the best control for scale insects. .
Plastic spiral tree wraps and brown paper wraps can protect tree trunks from
sunscald and gnawing by rodents. Put them in place before the snow falls so
they will extend all the way to the ground, or else the critters can sneak
underneath the snow and feed on the exposed lower bark. If
you've recently planted a tree this fall, and it is in a site exposed to
winds, it will need staking. Or, if you planted and staked a tree a
year or two ago, check the ties around the trunk. Be sure the ties
aren't tight so the tree can sway in the breeze. Wind stress actually
can increase root growth and trunk girth, which results in a stronger mature
tree. If ties were put on a couple years ago, the tree may have grown
in girth, making the ties too tight.
Other activities for this month include getting mowers ready for
winter—covering if outside, and adding stabilizers to the fuel, cleaning
garden tools, draining garden hoses, cleaning dead plants from vegetable
gardens, and storing clay pots in a dry location.
(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known
horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach;
Return to Perry's Perennial