I’ll be the first to admit that winter brings a good change of routine—yes, even those of us in the gardening industry tire of yard work. All in all, it’s well worth the effort—there’s nothing quite like the feel of lush, green grass in summer or the beauty of flowers in bloom. But rest is a blessing, too. With the recent hard frosts, the last of the plants still “awake” in your yard should be going dormant—now is the time to finish up yard cleanup and winter preparation.
Save most pruning for spring

One of the most common questions I get from customers this time of year is, “can I prune now?” In our mild climate, you could probably prune most plants just about any time of year. But I prefer to err on the side of caution. Consider this: if you prune now, the open wounds you leave—no matter how small—on a plant will be more susceptible to drying out or freezing over winter. So if you can, wait until late winter to address any major pruning work in your yard.

There is one major exception to that rule: roses. Mid-November—after your plants have dropped their leaves and gone dormant—is a great time to prune. Now is not the time to do a hard pruning like you would in spring, but rather a general “haircut” to prevent snow accumulation and wind damage from breaking long rose canes. A good rule of thumb is to prune your roses back about halfway—straight across. Then, in spring, you can go through and do a harder, more selective pruning to prepare for the new season’s growth.
Speaking of roses, now is a good time to mulch them for winter. Cover the base of your shrubs with bark mulch or well-drained compost. If your roses are in an area heavily exposed to the northeast wind, mulching is an especially important step to protecting them from winter damage or loss. Some sources might suggest using leaves you’ve raked as an insulating mulch; however, wet and rotting leaves invite disease and really can be more problematic than beneficial, especially here in the Northwest.
Fall color this year has been spectacular!

October’s many sunny days and cool nights gave us beautiful fall color to enjoy, but now that we’ve had a hard freeze, the last of the leaves should come down soon. Take some time this month to get outside and rake. As with roses, grass won’t benefit from a layer of leaves on top as it can promote disease and even kill grass if left unchecked. Besides, as much as we all dread raking, it’s good to get some exercise before the season of overeating—I mean Thanksgiving and Christmas—rolls around!

Lastly, take a minute to check your supply of bird seed. Winter is the time when the small songbirds in our area need the most care—and feeding birds is a great way to bring life and interest to your yard this time of year. At Vander Giessen Nursery, you’ll find a high-quality seed brand called Coles. From what we’ve seen at our feeders, birds eat all of the seed instead of throwing half (or more) away—and the best part is that we don’t have to worry about cleaning up sprouted seed under the feeders anymore! Also, to attract a wider variety of birds, be sure to provide suet through the winter—you’ll love watching the wide array of birds feeding.
November is a month of closure for gardening; knowing the best practices for this time of year will help to keep your yard and garden healthy through winter and into next year.