november garden to do list

Gardening Notes by Tomese Buthod, Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener

November Gardening Activities To-Do list, some musings about this time of year and let’s talk about our tools.

“Autumn is the perfect time to take account of what we’ve done, what we didn’t do, and what we’d like to do next year.- Author Unknown ( Unknown has got to be a gardener!)

“Fall Leaves, fall, die, flowers, away,
Lengthen night and shorten day
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.”
Emily Bronte’

“For man, autumn is time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering.” Edwin Way Teale, Autumn Across America 

Vegetable and Ornamental Gardening

 Mark the bulbs you planted so you know where they are next spring.

Stop fertilizing houseplants.

 If you haven’t put your amaryllis down for a nap, it is time to do so. Lay them on their sides in a dark, dry place for 6 weeks or more.

Clean your vegetable garden well. The time you spend now will reduce weeds and diseases next year.

Drain the fuel from your mower and clean for winter storage.

Don’t overwater houseplants.

Cut down asparagus and cover with compost.

Pick bagworms off of trees and destroy them.

Clean plant debris and fallen fruit from under fruit trees.

Gather persimmons by placing a tarp on the ground and gently shaking the tree. This way you will know they are ripe.

 After the leaves have fallen, prune diseased, damaged, or dead wood from trees.

Dormant pruning can be done whenever the wood is not frozen.

Turn over soil in garden. You can add raw manures at this time. Just know that come spring you will have to mulch – a lot.

Place your houseplants in south or west facing windows.

Drop your mower height to 2 inches.

Place tree guards around trees to keep rodents away. Remove in spring.

Last chance to plant tulip bulbs.
Transplant trees and shrubs that can safely be planted in the fall.

Securely tie blackberry and raspberry canes to protect from strong winds.

Continue watering until the ground freezes.

Pot spring-flowering bulbs for forcing.

Fertilize your lawn with high nitrogen fertilizer.

Put off a light trimming evergreens until Dec. you can use them in your holiday décor.

Cover strawberries with 3 inches of straw.

Mulch roses by the end of the month.

Tool Sharpening and Care

I love to cook and spend a lot of time in my kitchen.  I don’t know that anyone actually told me to, but it always seemed obvious to me that a great part of the time spent “cooking” is actually cleaning up and putting things away.  I would not think of making a casserole or pot of stew without making sure my tools were in perfect condition for my next cooking round.  Somehow, I didn’t make the same connection to my garden tools until fairly recently!  I knew I had to put them away and not leave them out, but the same care in cleaning before I put them away didn’t register.  Maybe because I just thought “oh, it’s just dirt and it’s going to get dirty the next time I use it” – Which I would never, ever do with my knives and spoons! 

You see, it’s more than just the soil – there is moisture, spores of all kinds, sap, you name it.  When you go from one plant to another, you are carrying all that nature on your tools.  And when you put the tools away dirty, the moisture, soil, sap, etc. is just making your tools duller and duller, making you work a lot harder the next time you use them, as well as possibly contaminating other plants in your garden.

A big epiphany I had a few years ago is just how privileged I am to have such good kitchen knives and I value them almost as much as my husband.  I keep them razor sharp, and they make the work in the kitchen so much easier.  You can forget trying to cook with any of the fabulous winter squash so abundant right now at the Bardstown Road Farmers Market if your knives are dull.  The same with the apples, carrots, beets, turnips, celery root, etc.  You can hack your way through them, but you’ll be worn out when you are done. 

Well, it’s the same story with garden tools.  The sharper they are, (and rust free) the easier your work in the garden will be.  I bet you haven’t thought of getting your shovel sharpened, have you?  Well, believe me – once you dig a hole of any size with a sharp shovel, you’ll be wanting to dig holes everywhere. 

So, as you look over the list of to-dos above, consider taking your garden tools to get sharpened before you put them away for the winter.  Local hardware stores are a great place to get that done.  Keith’s Hardware here in the Highlands is a great sharpening resource, as is Fresh Start Growers Supply.  Heimerdinger’s on Shelbyville Rd is another wonderful local source.   I take mine to a local guy in Fern Creek, but it’s worth the drive.  Nat Peters is his name, 502-239-8122.  Every time I use one of my tools – whether kitchen or garden – after he’s sharpened it I am absolutely in heaven.

Freshly sharpened or not, be sure to allow time in your gardening day to clean your tools properly.  Before you put them away after each use, rinse them off, dry them off, run a little mineral oil on them and store them where the edges won’t get dinged up.  The next time you pull them out you’ll be very glad you did.

As always, If you’ve got gardening questions, call the Jefferson Co. Cooperative Extension at 502-569-2344.  Download or print the latest version of the Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky booklet at  This tool is invaluable as you plan your garden – no matter if you are a seasoned gardener or a first-timer.  You can send questions to me at about your vegetables and I’ll do my best to answer, but I can’t swear that I’ll be super timely with a response – if the weather is decent I’m in the garden and nowhere near my computer!