Fall Garden Chores: October, November, and December

Sep 26, 2020


The desire for the peace, exercise, produce, or the beauty gardening brings into our lives seems to be gaining in popularity as we progress toward the end of 2020. Again, this quarter's chores will concentrate on just four chores per month – one per week. If there's time for more, past issues of Garden Chores will be able to round out suggestions for the season.

Fall soil remains warm for planting trees, shrubs, most ornamentals, and cool season edibles. If we are fortunate, rain will provide all the water gardens will need over the next few months.

 October Ideas

If there is time for nothing else, consider these four things to enhance a garden:

(1)Groceries to Plant Now: In early October, sow seeds or transplants for winter herb and vegetable harvests. Look for transplants of some vegetables as the month edges closer to Halloween. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, lettuce, parsnips, carrots and radishes love the warm days and cool nights of our fall season.

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(2) Feed the Birds: Consider planting some food for the birds to help tide them over this winter. Sumac, Serviceberry, Red Chokeberry, Holly, Pyracantha, and Black Chokeberry (picture at right) all grow in our area and are attractive to birds through the winter. Be sure to research the growth conditions and expected height and width of the plants before making a final choice.

(3)Add a Peaceful Looking Tree to the Landscape: Japanese Maples have graceful foliage, a beautiful form, and are adaptable to containers if necessary. For serenity in the garden, consider Red Pygmy, Orangeola, or Gable Glory. Red Pygmy is a vase-shaped tree with a rounded top. Its leaves turn gold as the season comes to an end. Orangeola has glossy orange red leaves that fade to dark red and provide a long-lasting autumn display. Gable Glory's new leaf color is orange red and long lasting – especially if it is not in full sun. The yellow-green bark on this tree provides interest over the gloomy months. Be sure to check the specifics on these trees so the right plant is in the right place.

(4)Bulb Gardens: October provides an opportunity to search for the perfect spring blooming bulbs. If there is room, try naturalizing the bulbs by tossing handfuls of a single kind over the planting area. Then plant them where they fall. Bulbs like full sun with not much summer water. If space is limited, create a container garden of spring blooming bulbs.

In November

Holidays are approaching, but our gardens will still profit from some attention. Here are four for November:

(1)Landscape “Housekeeping”: November is a great time to tend to a myriad of garden chores in readiness for winter and spring. Pay special attention to fallen leaves. Rake them into a compost pile or crunch them up and till into the garden for spring planting. If any plants need to be pruned or moved, do it now – there are more good “outside days” now than there will be next month.

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(2)Check sprinklers: If any are broken, fix them now so they are ready to go once spring arrives. Turn off sprinklers for the winter once they have been checked and repaired, if needed. It is also a good time to be sure the outside faucets are working properly and to wrap the pipes in case of a freeze this winter. Big box stores sell foam tubes that make wrapping pipes a breeze.

(3)Check pots and containers: Turn empty pots and containers upside down so they do not hold water over the winter and invite mosquitos in the spring. Remove pans under containers so the roots of container plants don't sit in water and become waterlogged.

(4)Get out a sprayer: To lessen trouble with diseases, fungus, and insects and to promote fruit production in the spring and summer, spray fruit trees with dormant spray after pruning. Be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer's directions for spraying. Check for more specific information at: http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/The_Big_Picture/Pests_&_Diseases/

December Notes

Such a busy month for everyone! Just a quick four for December:

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(1) Decorate the yard: String little solar powered blinking lights in citrus trees. It will make the yard look festive and help keep the trees a little bit warmer when the temperature drops to freezing or below.

(2) A gift for yourself (and/or another gardener): Plant an indoor herb garden using transplants and pretty pots in good potting soil. Set them in a sunny window and they will scent the area around them and add flavor to a variety of food over the winter.

(3)Take care of garden tools: Sharpen pruners, loppers, lawnmowers, and shovels. Wipe a very thin layer of oil over the tools and put them away until they are needed again.

(4)Plan something: Take 10 -15 minutes with your feet up and a favorite beverage by your side to look through seed catalogs and garden books and dream about what you want to accomplish in your landscape as the new year rolls in.


Information for this article was gathered from:



San Joaquin Master Gardeners: A Valley Gardeners Journal

San Joaquin County Vegetable Garden Calendar - 2011

Sacramento County Master Gardeners: Gardening Guide.

Month By Month Gardening – California – Claire Splan Sloat Nursery's October Newsletter