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November is nearly here: the month that marks the end of the active outdoor gardening season. Beloved plants depart us this month, and garden spots that once burst forth with color and joy begin to look ragged and tired. It's an appropriate time for the Thanksgiving holiday, as we appreciate—with much heart—the season that was and accept that we must bid our gardens "goodbye for now." However, before beginning your winter break from garden tasks, now is the time to maximize what you reap from your hard work all season—and to button things up before the ground succumbs to harder freezes. The paragraphs below tell you how. But first, an answer to a common question:


Why can't I still plant fall crops now?

It's tempting to want to throw in one final round of seed this time of year for hardy crops such as kales and mustards, but there's a reason not to do this: there's not enough light. As day length shortens rapidly this time of year, we enter a season in which—even if the temperature is above freezing regularly—there is insufficient light for much plant growth. Most hardy crops go into a period of hibernation for this season, resuming growth only in February or March, when the days begin to lengthen again. In November, focus on harvesting, clean-up, and indoor gardening—and give most of your seed-sowing efforts a break.

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Vegetables That You Can Still Plant

While there is little left to sow in the northern vegetable garden at this point, you can always squeeze in some spinach for late-winter or early-spring germination and mid- to late-spring harvest. Germination of November-sown spinach is usually superior to that of seeds sown in March or April, and it tends to be ready for harvest a week or two before spring sowings. For winter-sown crops we recommend either Bloomsdale (for good leaf size) or Abundant Bloomsdale (for extra hardiness).

It's also not too late to set your garlic cloves into the ground, though be aware that November plantings likely mean smaller bulbs to harvest next summer, as the cloves will grow a smaller root system in the fewer weeks between planting and the ground freezing. Still, it's worth doing if you haven't planted yours yet! And it absolutely can provide plenty of garlic to eat next year.

(For detailed planting instructions on garlic growing, have a look at our Tips for Growing Garlic. One key takeaway: garlic demands soil with high fertility, so add as much compost as you can—along with a general purpose organic fertilizer—at planting time. This is especially important for November-planted garlic. Then, be prepared to supplement with an additional round of fertilizer in early spring, before you even start preparing the rest of your garden.)

Flower Seeds to Sow Now

Many flower seeds, especially of perennial varieties, benefit from fall sowing, as the seeds require a period of damp chill to initiate the germination process. November is a great month to do these sowings. Perennials such as Echinacea, Wild Bergamot, Milkweeds, and Blazing Star all do well when fall or winter sown, as do some annuals—most notably Poppies.

We offer several wildflower mixes that do well with a fall sowing, including our Northeast Native Mix, our Eastern Pollinator Mix, and our four varieties of Wildflower Meadow Seed Shakers, each of which provides a fun, kid- and amateur-friendly way to cover about 100 square feet in attractive blooms.

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Plant Bulbs for Spring Blooms

Most flower bulbs perform beautifully next spring when planted in November, anytime before the ground freezes (they aren't as sensitive to timing as garlic is, except for Bearded Irises and Saffron Crocus, which we ship in September for this reason).

Bulbs, unlike seeds, like to be placed deep in the ground. Dig a hole that is two or three times deeper than the bulb. Plant it right side up: the round end of the “tear-drop” should be on the bottom, pointy end facing up. Cover back up with soil and then water in well to help the bulb establish roots.

We've still got some flower bulbs left, and they're now on sale! Click here to browse our remaining inventory.

For more tips on bulb planting read How to Succeed with Fall Planted Bulbs. (One highlight: our hori hori and v-shaped hoe make great planting tools for bulbs!)

Protect Crops from Frost

If you haven't yet added a layer of protection to extend your harvest season of hardy crops, now is the time! Embrace extension tools such as cold frames, row cover, and quick wire hoops, all of which are effective at extending the harvest window for mature cold-hardy crops such as kale, spinach, and mustards of all sorts. Look back to our Season Extension post for more on row cover use. Our hoops are simple rounded wire lengths that can be inserted into the ground around plants to keep row covers from direct contact with crops, thus adding better heat retention, airflow, and overall plant health. They can also be used in greenhouses and high tunnels, or under taller low hoops that hold plastic, adding about 5 degrees of frost protection in any use-case.

Nurture Your Soil

By the end of this month, your garden will likely be mostly bare. While it is too late in November to plant most cover crops, it's an appropriate time to spread compost, fertilizers, and amendments on your beds and to mulch them. Just be sure to keep track of which you've amended in the fall and which you haven't; that way you won't waste time and money re-fertilizing beds in the spring that you've already prepared in the fall. (The winter tends to "pause" the soil's cycles, so most nutrition added in the fall is held in place for spring plantings.)


Embrace Indoor Gardening

While the world turns darker and colder in November, the natural inclination is to retreat indoors. The good news is that you can bring some plant friends with you. Amaryllis is a beautiful, tropical-looking bloom that excels when grown indoors through the winter. Beautiful, delicate Paperwhites soften the indoor air with their gorgeous perfume scent. And Microgreens keep your kitchen in fresh and vital greens all winter long. These low-effort, high-reward projects match the lower-key vibe of winter beautifully: no weeding, no trellising, just straightforward growing inside your home. Embrace these seasonal efforts and you'll find yourself yearning for them every winter.

More Garden Activities for November

  • Invest some time this month into garden clean-up so that you can start your spring season without having to first untangle tomato vines or yank out dead squash vines. Your future self with thank you for it!
  • To extend their life, dig up and pot herbs–like rosemary, parsley, or chives–and place them in a sunny window sill. You'll be able to harvest them a bit over the winter and then they will shoot up as the days lengthen in February and March.
  • Sow a mini meadow of wildflowers with our shaker mixes. Try Bird Lover's, Bee Friendly, or Shady Meadow Mix for fall sowing.