Gardening Guidelines for November, December, and January
General Information and Tasks
- Plan to have your soil tested for next year’s gardening activities. The soil test is free for a few more weeks. From December to the end of March, the test costs $4 per sample.
- To enjoy holiday blooms indoors, plant amaryllis, or paperwhite narcissus in pots. Amaryllis bloom about 6-8 weeks after planting, paperwhites in about 4-6 weeks.
- Keep bird feeders clean and filled.
- Watch for freezing temperatures and bring potted houseplants inside.
- Check gardening tools for the next growing season. Do any need sharpening? Should some be replaced? You will save yourself time during the busy growing season if you take care of this task during the off-season.
- Drain and store water hoses to avoid damage from freezing.
- Turn the compost pile and protect from heavy rains.
- Do you keep a garden journal? Take time on inclement days to study what you have previously written and let your notes help with planning your garden. If you have not kept a journal in the past, purchase one for the upcoming seasons.
- Killing frost/freeze is just around the corner. Be sure to watch the weather and harvest any summer crops before it occurs. Included in these are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, and okra.
- Use cold frames or row covers for tender, cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, and turnips.
- Start to browse seed catalogs and dream.
Fruits and Nuts
- In November mulch strawberries, blackberries, grapes, and blueberries.
Shrubs and Trees
- You can still plant shrubs, trees, and vines in November.
- Take cuttings of rhododendrons and camelias for propagation. Layering is another method of propagation with good success.
- Do not mound mulch around the bases of trees and shrubs. The mulch will provide cover for rodents and cause the trunks to rot from added moisture.
- During periods of cold, make sure your shrubs or trees have adequate moisture. You may have to water your shrubs or trees before predicted cold temperatures.
- When freezing precipitation is expected, tie limbs of columnar evergreens to prevent snow or ice breakage.
- After winter weather events, remove damaged branches.
- DO NOT PRUNE most shrubs or trees. Pruning stimulates new growth which may not have time to harden off before frost. You may remove any deadwood from shrubs or trees.
- For “bleeder” trees, heavy pruning should be done during the coldest weather.
(Bleeder trees include: birch, dogwood, elm, maple, & styrax)
- Fertilize fescue lawns as recommended in NC State University’s Turffiles.
- Keep leaves raked up to avoid killing grass. Add chopped leaves to compost bin.
- Moss appearing in lawn may mean too much shade or poor drainage. Correct site conditions if moss is bothersome; healthy lawn conditions make for poor moss growing conditions.
Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs
- Cut and remove withered stalks of perennial flowers.
- After blooming, cut mums back to 4-6 inches above ground.
- Renew mulch in flower beds. Pull or hoe weeds that may pop up.
- As the season progresses, cut frozen perennials to the ground. Discard foliage as it may harbor disease.
Soil testing in North Carolina:
Preparing Garden for Frost:
Forcing Holiday Blooms:
Pruning of Trees:
Becky Garrett is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.