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November Garden Checklist

Learn what to plant this month, get maintenance advice and troubleshoot gardening challenges with an expert.

By Kelly Young

What to Plant

Low Elevations

COOL-SEASON VEGETABLES–Plant asparagus crowns in an area where they can grow undisturbed for many years, ideally in a location that gets six to eight hours of light each day. Cover new plantings with a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch, such as straw or pine needles. Start seeds of artichokes indoors now to transplant into the garden in January. Sow seeds of beet, carrot, parsnip, turnip, kale, chard, salad greens and peas directly into garden soil. Transplant broccoli and cauliflower before midmonth to give them time to grow prior to temperatures start to climb in the spring.

HERBS–Sow seeds of cilantro, chives, dill and parsley. Transplant oregano, thyme, catnip, sage and mint. Because of mint’s tendency to spread far and wide, many gardeners choose to grow it in a container that is buried in the ground. If you go this route, be sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom to keep the roots from drowning.

WILDFLOWERS–Search online companies for seed mixes custom-blended for the Sonoran Desert. Look for assortments that include Mexican or California poppy, lupine, globemallow and bluebells. Clear the area of weeds and rake back granite before scattering seeds and gently combing them in. If there is no rainfall within two or three days of planting, follow up with light irrigation to encourage germination.   

CACTI AND SUCCULENTS–For the ultimate low-maintenance, low-water-use landscape, include a diversity of cacti, agaves, yuccas and aloes. Spiny types, such as buckthorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa), century plant (Agave Americana) and Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia), are nature’s barbed wire and can deter wildlife. Plant succulents in well-drained soil. To determine drainage, dig a hole, fill it up with water, let it empty and fill it again. If there is still water standing in the hole after eight hours, the soil is poorly drained in that location.

Middle Elevations

ONIONS–Plant dry onion bulbs, called sets, by midmonth. Cipollini is a small, flat onion with a sweet, mild flavor. Red torpedo is another variety that gets its name from its bold color and long, thin rocketlike shape.

SPRING WILDFLOWERS–Scatter seeds of cool-season beauties, such as Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera), blue flax (Linum lewisii), penstemons (Penstemon spp.), lupine and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

BARE-ROOT DECIDUOUS TREES–Select varieties of peach, apricot, pear, apple, persimmon, nectarine and plum that are adapted to your elevation. Remove all packing material from dormant roots and keep the roots moist prior to planting. Dig the planting hole no deeper than the length of the roots and 2 feet wide. Use water to settle the soil.

High Elevations

Late fall and winter aren’t optimal for planting outdoors in high elevations, but consider brightening up your interiors with houseplants. Low-maintenance succulents that thrive in the low-humidity conditions of an Arizona home include jade plant (Crassula ovata), hen and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) and panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa).

Garden Maintenance

Low Elevations

DECREASE IRRIGATION–Cool, short days lead to lower irrigation requirements. Increase the number of days between watering established landscape plants. Larger desert-adapted trees can usually survive on once-monthly irrigation from November through January. Once cool-season grasses are established, irrigate every seven to 14 days.

HARVEST SWEET POTATOES–Dig up sweet potatoes.  A cluster of tubers can be found in the soil anywhere the stem made contact and set roots. Eat your nutritious harvest right away or let it air dry for three to four days before storing so your pickings don’t rot.

MANAGE COOL-SEASON WEEDS–If winter weeds have been a problem in rock landscapes in past years, mid-November is the time to apply a pre-emergence herbicide. Follow the product label to correctly apply, store and dispose of the chemical, or hire a licensed applicator to do the job. Keep  in mind that applying a pre-emergence herbicide will prevent all seedlings from germinating, so don’t use these products in areas where you are trying to establish wildflowers.

Middle and High Elevations

MAINTAIN GARDEN TOOLS–Clean and sharpen pruning tools. Remove attached soil with a damp cloth, and disinfect tools with a 10% bleach solution. Sharpen blades using a whetstone or find a pro at your local farmers market to do it for a small fee. Prevent corrosion by lightly oiling blades with a few drops of lubricating oil.

COVER FROST-TENDER PLANTS–Extend the life of delicate plants by covering them at night with a frost cloth. Remove the protective material in the morning after sunrise.

Pro Tip: Planting Citrus

By Marshall Eckert, account executive, Moon Valley Nurseries

As temperatures cool down, the desert soil remains warm from the summer’s heat, making November the perfect month to plant new fruit trees in your landscape. The warmth of the soil will help the tree’s root structure establish itself more efficiently in its new environment, while the cooler weather will allow you to water your new tree properly without the worry of evaporation. Planting in the fall also sets fruit trees up for success through the winter and into spring by giving them a few months to focus on creating robust root systems. Once spring arrives, your trees will be healthy and ready to flourish.

  • Monitor Your Watering Schedule—As temperatures cool, your irrigation schedule should be adjusted regularly. This will help ensure that you are not overwatering your trees. For best results, water deeply twice a week, enough to saturate the soil 2 to 3 feet below ground level.
  • Trim and Clean Trees—With the monsoon season over, attend to any damage to mature trees caused by storms and remove any branches that look unhealthy. Trim trees before temperatures get too cold to prevent weather damage to fresh cuts.
  • Fertilize Trees—During fall months, active growth of trees slows. Rather than directing nutrients to their branches leaves, trees focus on root health. Fertilizing both newly planted and mature fruit trees now not only promotes efficient root development but also aids in new top growth, resulting in lush foliage throughout the winter and fresh growth in spring.

Garden Solutions

How can we make our garden attractive to native bees?

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum ( estimates there are up to 1,000 species of bees in the Sonoran Desert. Most are solitary bees, meaning they do not live in large, social hives as do honeybees (Apis mellifera). To be a gracious host to as many native bees as possible, offer a wide variety of flora, especially plants that provide pollen and/or nectar, such as desert milkweed, desert lavender, brittle bush, globemallow and desert spoon. Bees also appreciate fresh water, so add a bird bath or other shallow water source. Finally, offer solitary bees a place to call home by building or buying a bee house. This can be something as simple as a block of wood with 2- to 10-millimeter holes drilled into it or a decorative wood-and-bamboo nesting structure that can be purchased at most garden centers.

Our roses have white, powdery spots on the leaves. Could this be a disease? If so, how is it treated?

Your roses may have a fungal disease called powdery mildew, which usually starts as small white spots on the leaves and eventually spreads to the entire leaf and on to stems and flowers. Development of the malady is most common when nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The problem is made worse by crowded plantings that restrict airflow and shade roses and other susceptible plants, such as cantaloupe or penstemon. Preventative practices early in the season that promote airflow and light penetration are more effective than treatment once symptoms have appeared. You can apply foliar fungicides specifically labeled for treating powdery mildew in roses, but avoid using them when temperatures are above 90 degrees, as the product may damage foliage.

Why did our mesquite tree fall over? It looked so healthy and was growing so quickly. What could have happened?

Despite the fact that mesquites survive some of the hottest, driest environments Arizona has to offer, they are not particularly thrifty when given lots of water. When grown in irrigated landscapes, such as lawns, mesquites can get very large, very quickly. Wild, native examples of this tree without supplemental irrigation may never exceed 12 feet in height or spread after 25 years, whereas an excessively irrigated mesquite in a residential landscape may reach that size in just three years. As a result of the rapid growth, the tree’s wood tends to be soft and prone to splitting and failure. When young mesquites are pruned to remove lower branches, the canopy can act like an umbrella, catching strong winds and uprooting the entire plant.


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