November in the garden: a month of indifference
There is very little to get excited about in the garden during the month of November except for the fact that maintenance is a continuing exercise.
If we are to keep the ambience of the garden ticking over, we must continue to give everything our attention. This is especially the case with newly planted seedlings, as many annuals are susceptible to damping-off disease in the early days. This results in a quick decline in the suffering plant while having the potential to transmit the problem to neighbouring plants.
With cooler temperatures being the norm, watering requirements are much reduced. However, it is still advisable to keep an eye on newly planted annuals to ensure their ability to establish themselves to stand the trials and tribulations that Mother Nature brings.
With the growth of most plants much reduced and tapering off, the emphasis for activity in November is a general clean-up of the garden for the Christmas season. This will entail removal of any garden debris left over from the summer including final dead-heading for late-blooming plants, raking fallen foliage and pruning back dead and diseased wood as well as new growth which has grown too long and may be of a weak nature.
Weeding is a continuous exercise which, at this time of year, will include both warm and cool-season species. It is important when weeding to remove the root system to avoid any potential regrowth. It is also important to remove ephemerals — plants that germinate, grow, flower and produce seed in a short period of time — as these are potential carriers of seed spreading in the surrounding areas and thus, more weeding! Weeding in non-garden areas should also be undertaken to arrest potential spread by seed or root offshoots — this includes between paving stones, the driveway, etc.
A check for pest and disease problems should be undertaken to reduce any potential outbreak of infestation — by aphids, for example — and/or fungal problems whose spores can overwinter on foliage or in the soil only to reappear in the next growing season. Observation is by far the best method of controlling problems in the garden as well as protecting neighbouring gardens from becoming hosts to the same problems.
Growth in lawn grasses should also be slowing down and in areas of weak growth the self-seeded meadow grass (poa annua) will be seen establishing itself. Summer and cool-season lawn weeds will also be active, with the former slowly being overtaken by the cool-season species.
Eradication of lawn weeds should be the order of the day as, once established, they are often difficult to eradicate.
If a new lawn is being developed, I would suggest, as a temporary measure, seeding with annual rye grass for a quick in-fill which will carry you through till April next year when you can work on installing a more permanent lawn with a grass of your choice.
I would suggest reducing the mowing schedule at this time of year as summer grasses will be far less prolific in their growth and too regular mowing, especially at a low cutting height, will do no good at all in retaining good, healthy, active growth.
With the temperature down at this time of year, it is also less likely that the grass will dry out and the real possibility of the moist clippings being targeted by disease organisms.
The general viability of soil in Bermuda is not always what it could be regarding nutrient value for plant growth. As the cooler temperatures will also slow growth, the application of a low nitrogenous fertiliser should be ideal if applied at this time of year. Most important is that it will harden off potential plant growth without generating a surge in growth which potentially could be vulnerable to wind damage.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society