November's Southern California Gardening Tips

November is "clean-up" month in the garden, but it is also a great time to plants some trees, shrubs and spring bulbs. Winter does not need to be bleak, get your hardy winter annuals out if you want some quick color over the holidays. It is also time to think "protection" from sudden freezes.

General Clean-up & Protection
Remove all spent plants and debris from both your flower and vegetable gardens to prevent the spread of diseases. Also, it is wise to remove old mulch.

Put packets of unused seed inside screw-top glass jars with a small tissue packet of powdered milk to soak up any moisture from the air inside the jar. Moisture would reduce the longevity of the seeds. Store the jars in a refrigerator or cool place.

Clean and service garden tools (oil shovels and other tools to prevent rust) and drain gas tanks of garden equipment to prevent water buildup.

A light mulch of shredded leaves or straw on your root vegetables will help protect against freezing. Also mulch perennials, tender shrubs and newly planted trees.

Some woody perennials such as heathers, butterfly bush, lavender, and  thyme, can be damaged or killed if you prune in fall. Protect them with mulch over the winter, and prune in spring.

Trees & Shrubs
Now is a great time to transplant and plant trees and shrubs. Do not plant too deep -- dig your hole the size of the plant’s root ball, and about twice as wide. Loosen the roots gently with your fingers, and make sure the root ball is planted a couple inches higher than the soil around it. If you are planting a plant where the root ball is burlap covered, leave the burlap on the root ball. Once the plant is in the hole, untie the burlap and pull it back from the trunk, still leaving it around the root ball. Fill in the dirt and be sure to firm the soil up to prevent air pockets that lead to rot. Water deeply then apply about 4 inches of mulch, keeping the mulch away from the trunk. Do no fertilize until spring.

Continue planting spring-flowering bulbs--remember plant bulbs to a depth approximately four times that of the bulb’s height and to water well after planting.

Set out forget-me-nots, pansies, snapdragons, violas, sweet William, pinks, ornamental kale and other hardy plants for flowering for winter and early spring. You can use a time-released fertilizer for better bloom.

Rake up all the fallen leaves from your lawn areas and mow over-seeded rye grass lawns to a height of 1 to 2 1/2 inches. Be sure to drain gas from the gas tanks of any gas powered garden equipment. If you lawn is pest and weed free, you can use the clippings as mulch in other areas of your garden,

Since roses are prone to diseases and pest, rake up all the old mulch and fallen leaves in rose beds, and replace with a fresh layer--this will go a long way towards preventing problems in the spring.

Indoor Plants
Now is the time to help your amaryllis into flower by removing the top inch of soil and replacing it with a fresh potting soil mix. Trim away any withered leaves and resume watering. Place in a south-facing window and remember Amaryllis bulbs like to feel crowded--there should be no more than 1 inch of space between each side of the bulb and the pot and at least 1/3 of the bulb should be above the soil line.

If you are moving plants indoors, remember to empty the soil out of pots left outside. Soil left in pots outside can expand if frozen, breaking your pots.