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Early November. The nights are long and cold, it will not be long before the first frost on the ground. Plants are getting ready for winter and go into slow mode. Now is the right time to winterize all plants in the garden, on the balcony or on the terrace. Take enough time to do this so that your plants survive the winter undamaged and you can enjoy them again in the spring.
In our article «Winterize the House: What You Need to Bear in Mind When It's Cold, Wet and Snowy!» read how to prepare your home for the coming winter.
Prepare your garden and plants for winter with this 6-step program:
Mow your lawn to a height of 5 or 6 inches before the onset of winter. Rake thoroughly and remove leaves and moss. This will give the lawn more light and more air, so it should not rot, mold or decay. Fertilize the lawn or sprinkle it with lime to ensure it gets enough nutrients. Do not compost the compiled leaves yet. You may need it to protect plants from frost - or as winter quarters for animals.
After the last lawn cut, clean and grease the lawn mower before storing it in a dry place, for example in the garage, garden shed or basement. Then, next year, you will be ready in spring for the first lawn cut.
Cut back only dead or withered shoots. The leaves protect the plants from the cold. The branches of trees, bushes and hedges that you have cut are usually too coarse for the compost pile and rot slowly. Cut them small or chop them up and use them to mulch the soil. This improves soil quality and protects the roots of frost-sensitive plants. Non-hardy flower bulbs such as begonias or dahlias should be overwintered in a dry, cool place. Cut the stems short, dig up the whole root with a spade without damaging it, and shake off the soil. Then bury the tubers in a sandbox and put them in the basement. Frost-sensitive plants that overwinter outside, you should protect them from the cold. For example, with breathable jute or breathable fleece.
Before the first frost, you can still plant some things:
Micro- and macroorganisms transform foliage into valuable humus. Therefore, leave healthy leaves under your ornamental plants. Sick leaves should be disposed of with household waste.
The vegetable garden gives little to do. You only need to cut back dead or withered shoots, weed and loosen the soil. Dispose of diseased shoots in household trash, not compost. Plant empty beds with a green manure, such as spelt, or cover them with grass clippings, leaves or straw to warm the soil and enrich it with valuable nutrients. You should cover lettuce or winter spinach with brushwood or fleece as soon as it first snows. Cover kitchen herbs such as lavender, rosemary or sage with fir or spruce branches.
Winter vegetables are ready for harvest now. Except for native cabbage varieties that love frost, you should harvest these vegetables before the first heavy frost:
November is the ideal month for winter pruning. Thin out the crowns of older fruit trees and remove dead, leafless or diseased branches, this will strengthen their vitality. You should also prune back younger trees to keep them growing regularly. It is best to do this close to the trunk and before the first frost, so that the cuts still have time to close.
In November you can harvest a lot of fruit such as apples, pears, rose hips, hazelnuts, quinces or walnuts and kiwis. Leave winter apples on the tree as long as possible, but be sure to harvest them before the first extended frost.
While the days are still frost-free, you can plant fruit trees such as apple, pear, cherry, plum, quince, or plum, and berry bushes such as raspberries, currants, or gooseberries. Bare-root trees and shrubs are best, as they establish their roots after the leaves have fallen and sprout with full vigor in the spring. Freshly planted trees and shrubs should be well watered and tied down so that they can survive the autumn and winter storms without damage. Protect young trees from frost with a layer or disk of mulch and lime the trunks or at least wrap the lower part of the trunks with breathable jute or straw.
Now it's definitely too cold for mugwort, tarragon, mint, thyme or wormwood. Unless you live in Ticino or on Lake Geneva. Only a few frost-hardy varieties of parsley, garden cress and chervil can still be sown outdoors in November. Nevertheless, you do not have to do without fresh herbs from your own herb garden on the windowsill in winter. Mediterranean herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme need a lot of sun, while other herbs such as lovage, peppermint or chives need a lot of light but do not tolerate direct sunlight well. Spray the herbs regularly, preferably with rainwater, otherwise they will suffer from the dry indoor air. Water herbs, however, only when the soil feels dry.
Winter-hardy herbs such as curry herb, lavender, oregano or rosemary should be protected from frost. For example, with warming and insulating fleece and with leaves, a layer of mulch or brushwood. Place the pots or raised beds in a sunny and wind-protected place, for example, directly against a house wall.
Some like it hot. For example, basil, which is also comfortable in heated rooms. Other herbs feel more comfortable in unheated spaces, such as the stairwell or a room.
Sensitive Mediterranean potted plants such as fig, oleander, olive or laurel, but also fuchsias or geraniums should be brought into the house or apartment as late as possible, but before the first frost. They feel most comfortable in a rather cool place, for example in the cellar or in a greenhouse. Tropical plants and plants from the Mediterranean region need more light than others. A conservatory is ideal for overwintering Mediterranean or tropical plants.
Leave plants outside that are too large, heavy, or can tolerate frost to a certain degree. You need to protect them from frost, especially their roots, which are sensitive to cold:
Until it freezes you can still plant, for example, cyclamen, Christmas roses, small pampas grass, pansies or winter jasmine in a box, tub or pot. And if you want to prepare your balcony or terrace for spring, you can already plant bulbs for hyacinths, crocuses, daffodils, checkerboard flowers or tulips.
If you don't have room for hanging baskets, large potted plants or canopy trees, you can hire a plant nursery to overwinter your plants for you.
Many houseplants still bloom in November and provide colorful splashes of color in the winter gray in gray: amaryllis, fuchsias, gardenias, hibiscus, orchids and Christmas cacti or stars. Others conjure up some color in your home with colorful leaves, such as variegated nettle, red lucky clover or dotted flower. Your houseplants will feel most comfortable in winter in a bright location near a window. Even ferns or orchids that otherwise need less light. Water houseplants only when the soil feels dry, and avoid water in the saucer. Spray plants regularly, preferably with rainwater, and inspect them for pests such as scale insects, spider mites or mealybugs that breed in dry air.
Lastly, you need to clean, repair, oil and store dry all garden tools. Electrical devices such as the water pump in the pond should be taken out of the water, cleaned and also stored in a dry place. In addition, remember all garden, patio or balcony furniture, as well as the barbecue. Before winterizing, you should clean your grill with a brush. Then you can grill on the first beautiful day of spring without having to clean the grate first. Aluminum, stainless steel, granite as well as plastic garden furniture should be stored under the balcony or in the garage. Iron garden furniture must be stored in a dry place, otherwise it will rust in winter. Wooden furniture made of robinia or teak could be left outside if you like the patina that develops. If not, you should store the weatherproof wooden furniture and bamboo furniture in a dry place.
As soon as temperatures are around freezing, water pipes can freeze and burst. That's why you should drain all outdoor pipes and cut off the water supply before the first frost. Remember to drain garden pumps, rain barrels or water hoses.