November Gardening By the Month

When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.


(Thanksgiving is a time of enjoying fellowship with our families, how about carrying that over into a family project of a fall garden?)

chinese-pink-garlic1st WEEK:

Take time to prepare your soil prior to ANY planting.

If you are going to plant trees and shrubs this fall, select xeriscape plants that will fit qualifications for the SAWS’s landscape rebate.

It’s still a great time to plant shrubs, small trees, and woody ornamentals.  Consider hollies and nandinas, evergreen shrubs with colorful fall berries. They do well in sun or shade. Redbuds, standard Yaupon holly, Texas persimmon, loquat and Texas mountain laurel also do well here.

Some young, deciduous trees and shrubs that you have possibly planted in the wrong sun/shade requirement can be moved as soon as they enter dormancy.

You can still divide irises and day lilies now.  Replant the rhizomes and bulbs in full sun and don’t forget to amend the soil with compost and peat moss. Fertilize with Agriform tablets or Espoma.

Prepare beds for spring bulbs.  Bulbs need well-drained soil and plenty of organic matter. Now is a great time, in San Antonio, to plant your spring-blooming bulbs.

Heavy rains can cause some leaf drop on trees.  Time is the best cure; do not fertilize plants showing leaf drop.

SLUGS and SNAILS are feasting on pansies, bluebonnets and other plants.  Apply slug and snail bait or put out beer traps to slow them.  The bait also will control pill bugs.

Leaves are too valuable to put in the garbage.  November is the official start of leaf season. Mow them and let the material decompose on the lawn.  It also makes good mulch or compost.

Seed nasturtiums, sweet peas, radishes, carrots, rutabagas, English peas, sugar snap peas, onions, collards and spinach to supplement cole crop transplants in the winter garden.

Sow Elbon (Cereal) Rye in bare parts of veg. garden as both a nematode trap crop and a “green manure” to be tilled into soil in late winter. – CF

Plant petunias, stock, alyssum, and violas for winter color in your yard.

Harvest pecans as they fall to the ground to maintain nut quality.

Enjoy the bright flowers of salvia, Cape honeysuckle, firebush, firespike, esperanza and Mexican oregano, which will usually hold their bloom until the first serious cold wave.

Kill grasses invading flowerbeds or ground covers with (diluted-per instruction) 18%  Glyphosate aka Roundup.

Remove debris from flowerbeds and gardens to control disease and insects.

Last chance to apply winterizer to your lawn (should be done by mid-month) to increase cold hardiness.  Read label directions carefully to ensure proper coverage.

Start collecting seeds of your favorite plants now.  Baby food jars make great storage containers.  Label the jar with the plant name and the date you collected the seeds.

Plant onions, radishes and spinach, English peas, sugar snap peas and collards.  Continue harvesting fresh vegetables from your garden.

Plant dianthus, snapdragon, shasta daisies, phlox and ornamental cabbage and kale transplants. – LR

Hibernation begins at this time for the ladybug, and goes through to January.  Clean out Ladybug houses, if Ladybug’s are hibernating, replace compost with fresh material (the geckos like the house better than the ladybugs).

Leeks, lettuce, mustard, onion, radish, rutabaga, Swiss chard, and turnip may be planted, especially during the early part of November, for a fall vegetable garden.

This is the last call for planting rye grass as a temporary cool/cold season lawn because the nights are getting too cool for quick and high percentage germination of the seeds.  Plant early in the month if possible. – DG&DG


celsius-2125_6402nd WEEK:

Keep track of weather – “Only a fool or a newcomer will try to predict Texas weather.”  When should a gardener use frost protection?  I wholeheartedly rely on our local weatherman, and subtract a degree factor of “8” for safety.  For instance, if your favorite weather forecaster predicts a low of 36 F, you’d better cover your plants.  If the forecaster is right and the temperature only falls to 36 F, you’ve merely experienced a trial-run plant protection alert.

  If above average temperatures prevail; Fall lawn fertilizing is even more important than spring (this is the last week to accomplish this). Use a fast release 3-1-2 fertilizer – don’t use anything high in nitrogen (these will be found in mineral fertilizers).  If there is damage, as in browning or fungus, wait until spring. – EW

Be prepared to mulch freeze-sensitive and newly planted roses, transplants, and seedlings, as they may succumb to frost or freeze.  Don’t forget “Airport” landfill on Bitters Rd. as source of “FREE” compost for mulching.  Mulch deeply all subtropical perennials (listed earlier) until March. – me

If above average rain has struck tomatoes, inspect plants and leave green fruit on the vines as long as they have green leaves.  Harvest the coloring fruit to reduce stress on the plant.

If you want to save caladium tubers, dig them up and let them dry for 10 days.  Remove the dirt and leaves, then pack them in peat moss so they don’t touch each other.  Dust with a copper-based or sulfur fungicide and store where temperatures stay above 50 degrees.

Prepare flowerbeds and plant pansies (ideal area is  where they will get at least 4 hrs. of sun per day).  Still time to plant hardy annuals like violas and snap dragons for winter and early spring color.  Plant in a bed with good soil and lots of organic matter and add blood meal for an extra boost.

Fertilize cool-season vegetables with a moderate application of fertilizer high in nitrogen (3-1-2, or 4-1-2). – RSR

Collect and store pecans now, get to them before the squirrels do. Pecans left on the ground will rot quicker than those harvested right away.

Make sure short-day bloomers (Poinsettia, Christmas Cactus and Kalanchoe) are not exposed to artificial light at night.

Dispose of diseased leaves from roses, Indian hawthorns, photinias, or fruit trees to reduce the chance of reinfecting the plants.

Look for HORNWORMS and CABBAGE LOOPERS on vegetable plants.  Both can be treated with Bt products such as Thuricide, Dipel or Bio-Worm.


annual-rings-332736_6403rd WEEK:

Have plastic, blankets (do not lay plastic directly against plants, blankets first, then plastic) and a mechanic’s light (with a 60 to 100W. bulb) for heat, or incandescent Christmas lights wrapped around your plant work great too, to be ready to protect citrus, tomatoes and other cold-sensitive plants (keep in mind, 40 is near freezing to some plants).  Our average first freeze usually arrives in late November, with the actual freeze typically coming on the following night after a sever cold front arrives. – me

Remember to water broad-leafed evergreen shrubs and St. Augustine grass every two weeks during winter and especially when forecast calls for temperatures below 24 degrees.

If you want to protect the stem of your banana tree during winter to increase the chances of having fruit next summer, first cut the stalk to 4 ft. then wrap the stalk with newspaper and secure it with duct tape.  Put a wire cage (a tomato cage will work) around the stalk and stuff it full of leaves.  That will provide insulation to protect the blooms that developing in the stalk.

Maintain mulch around veggies, herbs, and fruit (or apply a layer if you haven’t already). This will help to moderate soil temperatures and deter weeds. – RSR

Check all (plant) containers for proper drainage and condition of plant (worn-out soil, root-bound, poor quality potting soil, etc.) for winter storage.   The repotting of a plant to a larger container with a higher quality potting soil, or cutting off an inch around the root ball so you can add more potting soil, will be beneficial to your plants

Papayas are not cold hardy.  Be prepared to harvest the fruit when temperatures below 36 degrees are forecast.

Paint all wounds on oak trees to prevent the spread of oak wilt.

Brush your hand across a branch of your peach or plum trees when the first freeze arrives. If leaves fall off, it is time to spray with Cupro (or any copper hydroxide product) to prevent bacterial diseases.  (Cupro will defoliate the trees – EO).

Clean up gardens after first freeze.  Any plants with blight or mites should be thrown away, not composted.

You can still sow wildflower seeds.  Bluebonnet transplants are probably available at the nurseries.  Plant them 2 ft. apart, water them once and apply snail bait.  They won’t grow much until March.  Be careful not to overwater.  Plant pansies between them for color until April.

If you want a challenge, plant sweet peas on a trellis.  The color and fragrance are unmatched if the plants do not freeze or get too hot.

This is still an excellent time for planting trees, even living Christmas trees. – CF

Repair lawn and garden equipment.  Sharpen mower blades and drain equipment of old gas before storing.  Check your irrigation system for any broken heads or emitters.

This is a good time to build a compost bin.  Leaves can be raked and composted and ready for spring gardening.

Are your seeds duds or studs?  To tell the good from the bad from the ugly, test your annual seeds by dumping them in a bowl of water.  The duds float, while the “studs” sink to the bottom. – JB


snail4th WEEK:

Brown patch can be a problem throughout a mild winter. Take appropriate measures to control it early. If it develops, use a fungicide labeled for your type of grass according to directions. Keep grass at a higher level during the winter, and avoid watering at night.

With the cool weather, you won’t need to mow your lawn so frequently.  Have the blade sharpened and run the gas tank dry if you won’t be using the mower for a while.

Paperwhites have probably emerged in many neighborhoods.  A light application of fertilizer (1/2 cup per 20 square feet) is useful.

Plant spinach transplants for a nutritious, attractive vegetable that can be harvested all winter. You can also plant spinach seeds at this time to give you a continual harvest.

Snails and slugs are active with soggy, cool weather.  Apply baits, or beer traps to protect cool-weather plantings.

Sunflower seeds in your bird feeder will attract chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, blue jays, house finch and gold finches (GOLD FINCHES should be arriving from their migration, so time to set their feeder out).  Use the metal, weight-sensitive feeders to exclude squirrels and white-wing doves.

Keep potted (forced) Poinsettias away from cold or hot drafts, but near a sunny window.  Do not let them get too dry. – CF

There is still plenty of time to plant pansies, violas (Johnny jump-ups), flowering cabbage and flowering kale; but the problem may be availability.

Mulch begonias, plumbago and firecracker bushes well.

If a frost nips the tips of your perennials, hold off on cutting them back. Wait until a hard freeze kills the tops.

Prepare your potted plants for upcoming freezes. Potted plants are more susceptible to damage. Group them together when a freeze is predicted so they can easily be covered, or make plans to move them into the garage or another protected area.

Choose yaupon holly trees now if you want female plants that produce berries.  Selecting now while the berries are showy is a sure way to get ones that you want – LR


Please note, most of the information shared here was obtained from Research-based sources (see contributor acknowledgements below), and from individual who are considered very knowledgeable on a particular subject.  While some little tidbits here may be of interest, they should be taken “with-a-grain-of-salt”. (compiled by MG Brian D. Townsend)


CF – Calvin Finch, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)

EO – Edna Ortez, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News)

LR – Lynn Rawe, Bexar Co. extension agent for horticulture, Texas Cooperative Extension Service (courtesy S.A. Express-News); see their web site at

DG&DG – Dale Groom & Dan Gill, from Month-by-Month Gardening in Texas

DSM – Diane Morey Sitton, garden writer, photographer and contributing editor to “Neil Sperry’s Gardens (visit his web-site at

EW – Ed Ware, Master Gardener, Past-President S.A. Herb Society

JMP – Dr. Jerry M. Parsons, Professor and Extension Horticulturist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service; see his web site at

THL – Tracy Hobson Lehmann, Gardening Editor for the San Antonio Express-News

THMag – Texas Highways Magazine

JB – Jerry Baker, America’s Master Gardener, aka “The Yardener”