University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

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PROTECTING ROSES AND OTHER NOVEMBER GARDENING TIPS

Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant

Protecting roses for winter, draining hoses, and wrapping young tree trunks are some of the garden activities for this month.

Once the ground begins to freeze and you have consistent temperatures in the low 20s (F), it's time to protect modern hybrid roses from winter's wind and cold. The simplest method is to mound bark mulch around the base of the rose (soil or compost is less attractive to field mice), covering the graft union (the swollen part of the stem near the ground). The mound should be about one foot tall. Wait until spring to cut back the canes above the mound.

If a plant is rated for a zone warmer than the one shown for your site, you might consider mulching.  An example of a “tender perennial” is crocosmia—a summer bulb producing spikes of red (usually) flowers in mid-summer.  Although usually listed as hardy to zone 6 (average winter minimum of 0 to -10 degrees), these can be grown even in a cold zone 3 (-30 degrees and below winter minimum) with plenty of mulch or snow cover.  You can find your hardiness zones online from the USDA (planthardiness.ars.usda.gov).  Some plants are better off without any mulch, especially in winter, when it can compact and encourage rotting of the crowns. These include coral bells, delphiniums, oriental poppies, iris, violas, and sedums.

Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti develop buds when night temperatures are 55 to 60 degrees. If nights are warmer, place your plant where it receives no light from about 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. (such as in a closet) for 30 days. Don’t forget to move the plant to light during the day.

It's time to bring hoses inside, or drain them if you leave them outside. If the ground is frozen, the water in your outdoor hoses will be too. If this happens, bring them into a garage where they can warm up enough for the ice to melt. Then, coil them and store for the winter. Avoid hanging them on a hook, which can cause kinking. Make sure outdoor faucets are drained as well, and wrap them for winter.  Otherwise, they will freeze and may crack, or may leak next spring.

Ceramic and clay pots left outside can crack when the soil inside, or water absorbed into the clay, freezes and expands. Empty them and bring them into a shed, garage, or basement for winter. Also bring in ceramic birdbaths and statuary.  If too large to move, empty pots and cover them with a tarp.

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.

This is a good month to stock up on bird seed to keep your birds around during winter, and nourished.  Although some birds favor some seeds more than others, you can’t go wrong with black oil sunflower seeds which most like and which you often can find on sale in large bags.  Avoid the “filler” seeds found in the cheaper mixes that birds don’t eat.  Peanuts out-of-shell are another food that is a favorite of bluejays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees.  These are usually provided in a mesh tube feeder, which these birds can cling onto. 

Other gardening activities for this month include cleaning and getting garden tools and equipment stored for winter, planting spring bulbs and garlic if you haven’t already, checking houseplants for pests, and planting some paperwhite bulbs in pots for holiday blooms indoors.

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