November and December gardening chores

An unusually mild autumn kept the chrysanthemums in bloom well into fall. It wasn’t until early December that all the blooms faded. Though they could be left until spring, I prefer removing the dead stems to make the flower garden look neater. Notice in the picture showing dead mum stems (below) that Christmas lights line the picket fence; snow cannot be far away.

Clean up

Walk through the garden looking for dead plants. Remove only the dead above-ground portion of perennials. Pull up annuals if desired; however, annuals may be left to decay and return nutrients to the soil. Some self-seeding annuals, like impatiens, may contribute their healthy new sprouts to the decaying plant’s home for its own seeds.

How to remove dead mum stems

Wear gloves for this task to avoid scratching your hands with the brittle stems. Grab a fist full of the stems close to the soil surface. Holding the stems firmly, bend them to snap the stems from the base of the plant. Discard the stems or add them to the compost pile. After breaking off the stems, you may notice green new growth at ground level. This can occur during periods of unseasonably warm weather. Don’t worry about it though. The plant will survive the winter. For added comfort, sprinkle shredded leaves over the area.

Autumn leaves

If you have not already done this, rake fallen leaves and spread them across the garden after removing all the dead vegetation. Work the leaves into the soil using a rototiller or with the shovel. If using a shovel, push the shovel into the soil as far as you can while still being able to lift the shovel of dirt. That may mean just a few inches deep. Turn the shovel load of soil over in the same spot. This action place the leaves beneath the soil where the leaves will add nutrients as they decay. If you still have the garden hose out, water the soil to the depth of the covered leaves to aid decomposition. Repeat watering once a week until the ground freezes or until the first snow. Safety warning: if nighttime temperatures consistently drop below freezing, then remove the hose and drain it for winter storage.
Creating leaf mold
Hold out some leaves to dry in crib to create leaf mold. The process is explained in this article,


Clean, lubricate and store tools indoors for the winter. Wash work gloves and dry them thoroughly.

Order plants or seeds

Pull out the garden catalogs or go online to order flowers. The company will ship the flowers when suitable for planting in your USDA zone. Ordering early helps to ensure that you will get the plants, seeds or bareroots that you want.