We officially made it to November. The air is cooler, our windows are open, and what leaves we do have are falling. The javelinas and other wildlife in your area may have eaten what gourds and pumpkins you left out for Halloween decor. This is absolutely some of our favorite weather in Tucson. We can play in the gardens all day long and barely break a sweat, which after summer weather, we really appreciate!
Clean and sharpen tools. Take some time this month to clean up your gardening tools. Spending an hour or two brushing the old dirt and grime off those loppers and shovels can really extend their life. Tighten up any loose screws, and use a multipurpose oil to lube up your scissors, springs, or snips. And don’t forget to sharpen your blades. This will make using these tools in the future much easier.
|Cover citrus trees with frost cloths on cold nights. Photos: Fionuala Campion|
Protect tender plants from frost. We may see our first frost this month. To prepare, stock up on frost cloth. You can purchase this life saver at your local nursery or big box retailer. Use it to protect your frost-sensitive plants, which include many newly planted shrubs, succulents, and fruit trees. We also place some stakes around our fruit trees. This allows the frost cloths to drape over the stakes and not weigh down the fragile limbs of newer trees. The frost cloths can be taken off in the morning once the coast is clear. If you don’t have a frost cloth and you’re in a bind, throw an old sheet on your frost-tenders. You can also use Christmas lights to warm tender plants during the winter months.
Fertilize. November is a good time to fertilize any winter-growing succulents you may have. We use a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as Joyful Dirt. They sell totally organic products online for several uses. Now would also be a great time to hit your leafy veggies with a slow-release fertilizer to keep them looking perky and tasting delicious. For tips on when and how to fertilize different plants, read on here.
Harvest citrus fruit. You may start to see some citrus ripening this month. In November, navel oranges, mandarins, and tangelos should start to be ready for the picking just before Thanksgiving. Again, be sure to cover your young citrus with frost cloth when necessary. You’ll know when your citrus is ripe mostly by color and taste. Wait until they turn a rich color, whether that’s yellow, green, or orange. But if you see your limes turning yellow, you’ve waited too long. Also, be aware that your lemons will turn yellow before they are actually ripe. One last tip when it comes to citrus is that ripe citrus should fall right off the tree without any resistance. If you’re having to tug at it, it’s not ready! Learn more about growing citrus in the desert here.
Add late-fall interest. Though somewhat limited, there are some flowers sharing their beautiful colors with us this month that can be incorporated into your landscape. Be on the lookout for the last blooms for the year from ‘Red Hot’ tecoma (Tecoma ‘Red Hot’, Zones 9–11). The crimson red, trumpet-shaped flowers add drama to any space. Autumn sage (Salvia greggii, Zones 7–10) is a woody salvia that’s very hardy and also blooms in November. While purple cultivars look particularly amazing, the species can be found in many colors, including pink, red, and blue. Autumn sage thrives with well-drained soil and lots of sunlight. For some other late-blooming plant picks, read on here.
If you do one thing in November, be sure to spend some time outdoors appreciating lower temperatures and beautiful fall landscapes. We hope your November is filled with healthy and happy plants, and healthy and happy family too!
—Sheila Schultz and Laurel Startzel are a mother-daughter duo who founded Denver Dirty Girls Container Gardening while living in Denver and have continued their business since moving to Tucson, Arizona.