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Seasonal gardening: Flowers, lawns and trees

Seasonal gardening: Flowers, lawns and trees

Ask a Master Gardener

November 4th, 2018 by James Quinn, Regional horticulture specialist in Life & Entertainment

Discover helpful tips and things to be aware of while tending to your garden or yard this season.

Perennial flowers

The question of when to cut back and mulch perennials can generate disputing opinions and can depend on the perennial. The general recommendation is to wait on mulching until the plants are dormant, and that is likely when the top of the soil is frozen, likely similar to when it is time to mulch strawberries.

Should the plants be pruned back in early winter? Preferably not if the stems or leaves are still green. Waiting until February would be better. However, we can't expect gardeners to do everything perfectly and many will go about tidy cultural practices out of convenience, especially if they are snow birds.

Lawns and leaves

If you've ignored your lawn all October, you might still need a final mowing, but lawns are in their low care time. The one exception is removal of leaves. If they set too long then they smother the grass, especially if wet. Many people mow the leaves, effectively chopping them up where they'll sift into the canopy. To do this, you may need to mow them several times; try blowing the leaves such that you mow over them again and again.

If collecting whole leaves, consider storing them for later use as mulch. I like the convenience of raking them around trees in a thick layer. Keeping them from blowing away can be done by placing sticks and other trimmings on top of them. The rains and winter snow will eventually pack them into a layer that doesn't blow. This isn't the tidiest look, so its better for a back area or distantly viewed location. Fences aid in keeping leaves contained.


November is a good time to prune shade trees, but waiting for the leaves to fall off can be helpful for visualizing which branches are best to remove. It is also a good time to fertilize shade trees.

For fruit trees, one should wait until late February or early March to prune, as removing branches damaged by winter weather may be needed.

November is also a good time to plant a deciduous tree or woody shrub, as the roots can grow some, even when there are no leaves. This includes bare root trees and shrubs. If one plants an evergreen, special care must be taken so it doesn't dry out through the winter.

Even though it is cold, the leaves still transpire so water is needed. Most horticulturists advise against planting evergreens in late fall because of this.