The second week of November is a good time to put the garden and your garden tools to bed.
If the weather provides a dry day take advantage of this window to mow the lawn one last time before winter sets in. Try to use up all the gas in your mower before storing if for the winter. This is a good time to do other mower maintenance including sharpening the mower blades as recommended by the maker of the mowing machine.
Collect the clippings from your last cut so you have green material to add on top of the compost pile. If you want to enjoy a tidy look all winter take the time to trim and edge your lawn as well. Keeping the leaves raked from the lawn will encourage a thicker turf that can crowd out weeds in the spring.
Q. Some people say I should leave my flowering plants to die back naturally all winter while some experts recommend cutting back the tops of perennials and annuals in the fall so the garden is tidy all winter. What is best for our climate in Western Washington? MG, Puyallup
A. You can do fall garden clean up either way. If you decide to “chop and drop” this leaves the cut remains of tomato plants, marigolds, daylilies and daisies lying on top of the soil to provide winter protection and to slowly decay and add organic matter. The slimy side of this method is that slugs and other thugs can more easily overwinter.
If you practice “cut and carry away” your beds will be neat and clean but more exposed. The best way but the most work is to cut and carry (anything brown, cut it down) and place the debris into a pile with a topping of green grass clippings. In the spring, add this composted material back onto your soil so it will hold more water and nutrients.
Q. Can I prune in November? Anon, Email
A. Yes, you can remove anything dead, diseased or damaged any time of year and by mid-November your trees and shrubs will have slipped into winter dormancy so you can thin out any crossing or award branches.
Shorten up tall rose plants if they are rocking about in the wind but don’t get snippy with tender plants such as hardy fuchsias, rose of Sharon hibiscus, jasmine or ceanothus. Wait until early spring to prune forsythia and quince and when it comes to rhodies and azaleas remember “pruning after blooming.”
Q. I have read that the best time to move or add peonies to the garden is in the fall. What month of the fall? Is now too late to move my peonies? P.C., Tacoma
A. Dig in and dig up your peonies because November is the perfect month to move or add new peonies to the garden. Just remember that most peonies fail to bloom because they are planted too deep so replant the thick and fleshy peony root so that the eye or growth bud is just below the surface of the soil.
You can cut off the leafy green tops of your peony plants this month even if they don’t need a transplant (don’t cut back tree peonies). Removing the foliage in the fall will help your peonies resist leaf blights on new growth in the spring.