Cleaning Tools and Other November Gardening Tips
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist
Cleaning garden tools, getting mowers and power equipment ready for winter, and getting any remaining spring-flowering bulbs planted are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Use a brush and water to scrub dirt from your tools, then wipe with a light coating or spray of oil (such as cooking oil or cooking oil spray). Many use a 5-gallon bucket filled with sand and a quart of motor oil. After using tools, scrape and rinse the heaviest dirt off, then push the tools in and out of the sand mixture a few times. The sand helps remove other dirt, the oil helps prevent rust.
Don’t forget to sharpen hoes and cutting tools such as pruners. Sharpening stones or power grinders and sharpeners are available at complete garden and hardware stores.
Don’t forget to disconnect and drain garden hoses on a warm day before they freeze solid for winter. The same applies to sprayers. Otherwise you may have openings in the spring not just at the ends! If you have chemicals, especially liquids, in an outdoor shed or unheated area, make sure they get stored in a non-freezing place over winter.
If you haven’t cleaned under the decks of mowers, do so now so dead moist grass doesn’t remain there all winter and rust the metal. Before cleaning under the deck and around the blades, disconnect the spark plug wire for safety. Once heavier debris is scraped off with a putty knife or similar tool, and deck rinsed with a hose, spray with oil as noted for garden tools.
Spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils can still be planted if you have any left. They wont hold well until spring, and if planted then will try to bloom yet won’t have any roots to support growth. Mulch with an inch or two of organic material, such as bark or straw, to help retain ground warmth longer. If you don’t have any spring bulbs, now is a good time at many outlets to find clearance sales on them. The selection is often limited, but the prices are inexpensive.
If you grew carrots this year and still have some in the garden, now would be a good time to either mulch them to delay the ground from freezing (this helps trap the heat in the ground), or dig them for storage. Carrots like to be kept moist, as in damp sand or compost, and cool. Store above freezing, but below about 40 degrees (F) as in a minimally heated garage or cellar, or spare refrigerator.
November is the time some stores have sales on bird seed, so stock up for winter. While some birds have their preferences, such as corn for blue jays or niger seed for goldfinches, most birds love black oil sunflower seeds and get nutrition from them. Avoid inexpensive mixes which contain lots of filler seeds with little nutrient value. Woodpeckers love wire mesh tube feeders filled with raw peanuts (out of the shells). You can buy the latter at complete feed stores.
Other garden activities for this month include cleaning any debris and dead foliage from gardens and under fruiting plants, especially if it was diseased. Put a heated bird bath out for winter and get in the habit of replenishing the water and cleaning regularly. Protect tree trunks from winter chewing with tree guards—either ones purchased or made from hardware cloth. Hang mesh bags of human hair or bars of soap near shrubs to repel deer (hopefully) if you have any nearby. Mulch garlic, roses, and strawberries when the ground has frozen.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach (CharlieNardozzi.com). Distribution of this release is made possible by New England Grows– a conference providing education for industry professionals and support for Extension’s outreach efforts in horticulture.