November Gardening TIps – Pest Proofing the Garden


By Dr. Leonard Perry and
Dr. Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension

In November Mother Nature begins to put
things to bed for the long winter. It’s time for gardeners
to do the same by protecting plants for the winter,
storing garden tools, and tidying up the garden for
the next growing season.

If you haven’t cleaned up old plants and
debris from vegetable and flower gardens, do so before
winter comes. Leaving plant debris allows diseases to
overwinter and resurface in the spring to attack crops.

Remove spent canes and cut back dead foliage
of perennials to about four to six inches of the ground.
If desired, leave some seed heads or other interesting
features to add winter interest to the garden. Rake
up damp leaves around plants to prevent matting, which
could smother or rot your plants.

Around Thanksgiving, it’s time to mulch
non-hardy perennials and strawberries with a thick layer
of straw and put up snow fence to protect blueberries
and tender shrubs from drying winter winds. You also
need to prop up limbs or put structures over plantings
under rooflines that are likely to be damaged by the
weight of ice and snow.

To avoid damage to tree trunks from mice
and voles, don’t put any mulch around them as this creates
habitat for little critters. Instead, wrap a piece of
quarter- or half-inch mesh hardware cloth around the
trunk of the fruit tree. Make this guard two feet high–or
more if you are in a snow belt. Bury it about three
to four inches of below the soil surface.

If you’ve had severe rodent damage in
past winters, a rodenticide used in combination with
the above practices may be needed. Contact your local
garden center for information on baits and bait stations.
Be careful not to put poison in containers that might
be found by children, pets, or other wildlife by accident!

Deer control is always challenging. Fencing
is the most effective, albeit expensive, solution. But
even a short fence, just four or five feet high, can
protect most small gardens, since deer don’t like to
be enclosed. Large areas require a tall fence, eight
to 10 feet high, since deer can jump. A shorter angled
fence or two short fences a few feet apart often work
to confuse deer and, thus, can keep them out.

Less effective options include repellents
such as sprays made from hot peppers, rotten eggs, or
soap-like ingredients. Be sure that commercial products
are labeled for the crops you intend to spray them on.
After rains or over time, these will have to be applied
again to maintain repellency.

With moderate deer pressure, you may have
success hanging deodorant soap bars in threatened trees
and shrubs. Leave the wrappers on, drill holes through
the bars, and hang abundantly. The key to using repellents
is to get them in place before the deer get used to
feeding in an area.

Take time to care now for your lawn and
garden equipment. Change the oil and spark plugs on
your rototiller. Clean the lawn mower and have the blades
sharpened. Drain the fuel tanks or add a fixative (this
is different from dry gas) designed for gas-powered
engines that will be idle for long periods of time.

Clean and oil your garden tools before
you put them away for the season. Light rust will come
off with steel wool and a little elbow grease. Or fill
a large pail with sand and a little oil, then slide
your garden tools in and out of the sand to clean. For
heavy rust, use navel jelly. Once tools are clean, coat
with a light coating of used mineral oil. Sharpen shears
and pruners.

And don’t forget the garden hoses. They
need to be drained and rolled up. Then make sure you
turn off the water supply to any outside faucets to
prevent pipes from freezing this winter.

Empty container plants, adding the soil
to the compost pile or garden. Scrub and sterilize the
pots before storing them for use next year. If you have
a small greenhouse for starting plants, empty it and
sweep up any dirt and debris. Then wash down the glass
or plastic sides and roof with disinfectant. Clean pots
and planting benches. Finally, inventory your supplies,
making a list of what you will need to buy this winter
to start seeds for next year’s garden.

November is also the time to take a good
look at your landscaped areas. Make notes on where you’ll
want to plant a new shrub or bush next year, or what’s
getting overcrowded and will require thinning. Perhaps
you would like to change the border of a flower bed
or create a new bed in a different part of the yard.
Jot it down now, so you don’t forget next year.

Tag branches (or make a mental note) that
will need to be pruned in early spring. Remove storm-weakened
branches now to prevent them from falling and possibly
causing injury to the tree or a person this winter.

Other activities for November: put up
bird feeders and stock up on birdseed; make plans to
attend upcoming horticultural meetings; check stored
crops for spoilage; shred and stockpile fallen leaves
for use when composting food wastes this winter.

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