November Garden Chores

Fall is a busy time of year. Our house and cars need to be prepared for the upcoming winter season. It's also time to get our garden and landscape plants ready for winter. The following are a few garden chores that should be completed in November. 


Modern, bush-type roses (hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras) require protection during the winter months. Low temperatures and rapid temperature changes in winter can severely injure and sometimes kill unprotected roses. 

Hilling or mounding soil over the base of each plant is an excellent way to protect bush-type roses. Begin by removing fallen leaves and other debris from around each plant. Removal of diseased plant debris helps reduce disease problems next season. Then, loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent the canes from being whipped by strong winds. Next, cover the bottom 10 to 12 inches of the rose canes with soil. Place additional material, such as straw or leaves, over the mound of soil. A small amount of soil placed over the straw or leaves should hold these materials in place. Prepare modern roses for winter after plants have been hardened by several nights of temperatures in the low to mid-twenties. Normally, this is early November in northern Iowa, mid-November in central areas, and late November in southern counties. 


Strawberries should be mulched in fall to prevent winter injury. Cold winter temperatures and repeated freezing and thawing of the soil through the winter months are the main threats to strawberry plants. Temperatures below +20 degrees Fahrenheit may kill flower buds and damage the roots and crowns of unmulched plants. Plants can also be destroyed by repeated freezing and thawing of the soil which can heave unmulched plants out of the ground. 

Allow the strawberry plants to harden or acclimate to cool fall temperatures before mulching the bed. In northern Iowa, strawberry plantings are normally mulched in late October to early November. Gardeners in central and southern Iowa should mulch their strawberries in early to mid-November and mid- to late November, respectively. 

Excellent mulching materials include clean, weed-free oat, wheat, or soybean straw. Chopped cornstalks are another possibility. The depth of the mulch should be 3 to 5 inches at application. The material should eventually settle to 2 to 4 inches. 

In windy, exposed areas, straw mulches can be kept in place by placing wire or plastic fencing over the area.  The fencing can be held in place with bricks or other heavy objects. 


Chrysanthemums are shallow-rooted plants. Repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months can heave plants out of the ground and cause severe damage or even death. 

Gardeners can increase the odds of their mums surviving the winter by applying a mulch in fall. Mulching helps eliminate the alternate freezing-thawing cycles that can heave plants out of the soil. Apply the mulch in late fall, typically late November in central Iowa. Do not cut back the plants prior to mulching. Simply cover the plants with several inches of mulch. Suitable mulching materials include clean straw, pine needles, and evergreen branches. Leaves are not a good mulch as they tend to mat down and don't provide adequate protection. The mulch should remain in place until early to mid-April. 

Vegetable Garden

Finish harvesting root crops, such as beets, carrots, and parsnips. Afterwards, clean and till the garden. Fall clean-up and tillage provide several benefits. Many plant pathogens overwinter in the garden on infected plant debris. Removal and destruction of the diseased plant debris reduces the severity of many diseases. Removal of plant debris also eliminates hiding places for some insects and helps reduce insect populations. Additionally, a fall-tilled garden dries out and warms up more quickly in spring, permitting earlier planting of cool-season crops. 

Trees and Shrubs

During the winter months, rabbits often gnaw on the bark of many woody plants. Heavy browsing can result in the complete girdling of small trees. Rabbits may also clip-off small stems at snow level. Small trees with smooth, thin bark are most vulnerable to rabbit damage. Apple, pear, crabapple, and serviceberry are frequent targets of rabbits. Other frequently damaged plants include the winged euonymus or burning bush, Japanese barberry, dogwoods, roses, and raspberries. 

The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage to trees and shrubs in the home landscape is to place chicken wire fencing or hardware cloth around vulnerable plants. To adequately protect plants, the fencing material needs to be high enough that rabbits won't be able to climb or reach over the fence after a heavy snow.  In most cases, a fence that stands 24 to 36 inches tall should be sufficient. To prevent rabbits from crawling underneath the fencing, bury the bottom 2 or 3 inches below the ground or pin the fencing to the soil with u-shaped anchor pins. 

After a heavy snow, check protected plants to make sure rabbits aren't able to climb over the fencing. If necessary, remove some of the snow to keep rabbits from reaching the trees or shrubs.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on October 17, 2012. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.