November is an odd time of the year for the gardeners of the Gulf South. While the milder temperatures are definitely appreciated by plants and people alike, active weather systems pushing down from the north mean our average first freeze dates arrive this month along with the second most active tornado season of the year. So even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, your first freeze is just around the corner. I will be using these early November days preparing for that inevitable first freeze. Here is what you can do to prepare for what passes for winter in our southern gardens.
Vegetable and Herb Gardens
As long as you have your row cover ready to go, you can still do a lot of planting in November. Plant beets, chard, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, lettuces and spinach from seed. Transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and collards can also be planted now. Late season brassicas generally suffer less damage from loppers.
Beans planted in August are in season and should be full of tender goodness. Root crops like beets are ready. While roasted beets are trendy right now, my favorite way to enjoy them is as a sweet pickle.
Harvest tomatoes as soon as they show color and let them ripen in the house. It is far better to eat fried green tomatoes than it is to let them freeze on the vine.
Perennial and Annual Bloomers
I have two heirloom begonias and an amazing heirloom geranium that are truly precious to me (and my wife). To make sure that I have these in the spring, I always hedge my bets by taking tons of cuttings. While technically perennial in tropical areas, plants like begonias do better when grown from cuttings each season.
Fruit and Nuts
Now is a great time to plant fruit trees. Fruit trees love good drainage, so if you have trouble with drainage, plant is a raised bed that is well worked with compost. Also mulch heavily. This will preserve soil moisture and help keep soil from freezing.
If you had trouble with scale insects on your fruit trees this summer, spray with dormant oil once the trees lose their leaves.
I buy good tools and I take care of them. Extend their life and usefulness with proper, regular care. Clean pruners with a 1% bleach solution and sharpen after each use. Wash other hand tools with soap and water. Once dry, take a file to the edges of your hoes, shovels and larger blades. Once they are sharp, wipe down the blades and the wooden handles with linseed oil. Come spring, they will be clean, sharp and rust free.