If you live in Ontario, summer comes and goes in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday we were sharing advice on how to plant carrots and peas, now here we are sharing our list of things to do before the cold winter sets in.
Many of the items on the list may seem arduous and boring, but believe me, you will save yourself a lot of work, and potentially money, if you do them now instead of in the spring. My advice is to pick a sunny day and do as many of the following chores as possible in one go!
Top 10 Things to do in November Checklist
1. Empty your rain barrel. Store the hoses and diverters indoors to protect from freezing temperatures. Open the spigots and store the rain barrels either inside a garage or basement or, if outside, upside down and covered with a tarp. Remember to add a downspout extension to the drainpipes to redirect water away from any buildings.
2. Remove spent vegetable plants. If they were healthy, compost them. Remove any invasive weeds. At the very least, remove the flower heads to prevent weeds from spreading and becoming a nuisance.
3. Empty and drain your hoses. Store hoses in sheds, basements or garages to prevent them from bursting during the winter. Remember to turn off the water supply to outside water taps.
4. Don’t tidy your perennial gardens or lawns. Mow fallen leaves and let decompose into your lawns. Rake shredded leaves onto your perennial and vegetable beds to act as mulch during the winter. Leaf mulch also protects overwintering insects and bees. Remember, most of our native bees burrow underground, they don’t live in a protective hive. Seed heads of perennials provide an important food source for birds all winter long, don’t cut them down! Watch our video with Sean James, Eco-Landscaping expert, on why tidiness is overrated.
5. Clean your gardening tools and gardening equipment. Wash off any remaining dirt and rust with steel wool or a scrub brush. Allow to dry and then wipe down with a 10% bleach solution to disinfect your tools. Also, consider using oil to protect your tools over the winter. Use a vegetable oil spray on shovels and hoes. Disassemble, and use non-petroleum lubricants such as food-grade silicone spray, on tools with moving parts such as pruners.
6. Repair any damaged raised beds or garden fences. Now is the time to remove a broken fence or replace a rotted wood board. The soil level may be lower, allowing easier access, or at the very least, the garden is no longer needing protection from hungry critters.
7. Top up your vegetable garden with aged manure and/or compost. Both aged manure and compost are excellent choices for your gardens. Many vegetables, such as potatoes and tomatoes, deplete the soil of nutrients. Adding compost will replenish those nutrients. The good news is that the freeze-thaw cycle of winter will turn the soil for you, eliminating the need to till. As an added bonus, if you buy your compost or aged manure in bulk, there probably won’t be a wait time until you receive it, unlike in the spring.
8. Assess what worked and what didn’t in your garden. There are a variety of reasons why some crops do well one season and not the next, and a lot of it, such as weather, is beyond our control. That being said, if your neighbour had a bumper crop of zucchini and you harvested only one or two, maybe you can improve the situation for next year. Consider making notes that you can refer back to as you do your research in December and January. It may be at the forefront of your mind right now, but three months from now you may forget the highs and lows of your gardening season.
9. Make notes or draw a map of where everything was planted this year. This will make it easier to follow basic crop rotation plans next year. Spend the winter researching varieties that might work better for your region.
Instead of fighting nature, have it work for you. Freeze-thaw cycles turn the soil for you, saving you hours of back breaking labour in the spring. Don’t tidy your garden just because that is what you think you should be doing in the fall. Many birds rely on the seeds of perennials to survive the winter. Squirrels quickly scoop up fallen acorns and fruit that has fallen from your trees. Leaves from deciduous trees can be chopped up with a lawn–mower and either left on the lawn to decompose or added to a garden bed to provide nutrients. Remember, if nature abhors a vacuum, maybe we should be eschewing leaf blowers!