UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA

November Tips

Monthly tips are categorized by To-Dos, What to Plant, or Pests and Diseases. Scroll through the list to see items in each category. Also, refer to our list of tips useful for any month.

1. To-do

  • Growing Vegetables in Containers -

    Growing Vegetables in ContainersContainer grown vegetables can be decorative as well as good to eat. Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container if given the proper care. Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers and herbs do well. Use our Vegetable Planting Chart to decide when to plant.

    One of the biggest problems is that containers dry out very fast and nutrients wash away. Both are solvable. Do not use clay pots, which dry out quickly. Plastic, composite or wooden half-barrels are good, but avoid dark colors that can absorb heat. Vegetables like a roomy container.

    There must be drainage holes in the bottom but it is not recommended that you put pebbles or broken crockery in the bottom. Use a good commercial potting mix, not planter or planting mix. Group the containers together so they will shade one another.

    The hot summer sun can heat the soil to unhealthy levels. Water whenever the soil is dry. You can test by digging your fingers into the dirt. You may have to water more than once a day. A simple drip system is easy to install and will make your container garden almost foolproof. Fertilize every week with a water-soluble fertilizer.

    - February, March, April, October, November
  • Poison Oak -

    Poison oak is a California native plant that provides shelter and food for many native birds and other creatures. The downside is that at least 75% of us develop allergic contact dermatitis to the plant. Unwanted poison oak can be pulled or dug up by allergy-resistant friends, remove plants in early spring or late fall when the soil is moist and it is easier to dislodge rootstocks.

    A complete list of management options, including herbicide control, is contained in the UC Pest Note on Poison Oak. Under no circumstances should poison oak be burned.

    - February, March, April, November
  • Winter Soil Health -
    If you are not growing anything special in your vegetable and flower beds, now is a good time to build up the soil health in anticipation of spring planting. Covering it with mulch will hold in moisture, moderate soil temperature, and help prevent germination of weed seeds. Organic mulch (not rocks or plastic), Compost, or manure spread on top will slowly break down over time and feed the soil and beneficial soil organisms. Another way to keep the soil healthy is by planting cover crops.
     
    More Information: Soil Health
     
    - October, November
  • Autumn Leaves - To Rake or Not to Rake -

    Fallen autumn leaves from healthy trees can provide valuable mulch, with the return of nutrients to the tree as the leaves slowly decompose. If you don’t like the look, you can add the leaves to the compost pile and later spread the compost under the tree. Diseased leaves should be put out with yard waste recycling to avoid spreading disease in your garden.

    - November
  • Bone Meal for Bulbs? -

    Bone meal has traditionally been used as a phosphorus source for flower bulbs, but you may want to reconsider. If your soil is healthy, you may not need it and you may be better off with a balanced fertilizer designed for bulbs or even nothing at all. The nutrient content of commercial bone meal is lower than in the past due to the cleaning process, and the bone smell may attract raccoons or dogs to dig up the bulbs.

    - November
  • Persimmon Harvesting -

    Persimmons - Fuyu
    Persimmons - Fuyu
    Harvest persimmons. Fuyu persimmons are ready to harvest when they have their full orange color and are still slightly firm to the touch. Hachiya persimmons (with the pointy ends) must be soft and have translucent skin. If you eat an unripe Hachiya variety, you will gain a new understanding of the word “astringent”! Cut them off close to the fruit to avoid damage to the branch from yanking them off. The UC Master Gardeners of Solano County have a nice blog posting about Persimmons.

    - October, November
  • Poisonous Plants List -

    As we approach the holidays, there are a lot of questions on poisonous plants. Fortunately, many of these plants have a very bitter taste that limits the amount of the plant eaten.

    Poinsettia and mistletoe should be kept away from curious children, but the list includes other flowers and plants such as azaleas, calla lily, carnation, daffodil, foxglove, hydrangeas, iris, lantana, narcissus, poppy, sweet pea and tulips.

    Different parts of the plant may be toxic. Consult the UC Poison Plant web page for detailed information.

    - November, December
  • Harvesting Sweet Potatoes -

    Hopefully the timing of your sweet potato harvest will work out for Thanksgiving dinner! They are usually ready 90-100 days after planting, when the end leaves start to yellow. You can dig down a little to see if the potatoes are large enough, but dig carefully or use your hands to avoid accidentally cutting the potatoes. If you plan to store them, cure them in a warm, humid environment for a couple weeks.

    - November
  • Inspect irrigation and consider graywater -

    Irrigation sprinkler spraying lawn
    Adjust timing setup for your sprinkler system as the season changes since more or less supplemental water will be needed. Inspect your irrigation by turning on each watering zone individually while you are there to watch. Check for any leaks in pipes or tubing. Make sure emitters are not clogged. Check the overhead sprinklers to find out if the water is being distributed evenly. Do this by putting tuna or cat food cans throughout the area and seeing if they are uniformly filled. Watch for runoff which could indicate that the sprinklers are not aimed correctly or that they are watering for too long at once without giving time for the water to soak into the soil. Make sure the water is going to the root zones of the plants.

    Other things to consider:

    • Use a smart irrigation controller. These help adjust watering based on local conditions. Learn more about smart controllers.
    • Collect water from the shower and uses it to water any plants.
    • Use graywater from garage sinks and washing machines to water ornamentals and lawns. UC has a publication titled Use of Graywater in Urban Landscapes in California.
    - March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November
  • Don't Fertilize Now -
    Except for cool-season vegetables and lawns, most plants will be dormant or growing very slowly during this time of year. Fertilizing is most beneficial when plants are actively growing or developing fruit or flowers. Even citrus which ripens during the winter is best fertilized for the last time of the year before October 1. Some California native plants are active in the winter, but they evolved in our native soil and generally do not need supplemental fertilization. Fertilizing plants now will create tender new growth right before the risk of frost. Some nutrients cannot be taken up efficiently by plants during cold weather. The excess can leach into the groundwater or run off and reach the bay. Ultimately, using unneeded additives is a waste of resources and money.
     
    More Information: Dormant Season
     
    - October, November, December
  • Leafy Salad Plants -
    Lettuce by Donna Lee
    Harvest your leafy vegetables early and often. Many leafy vegetables will bolt (go to flower) quickly if not harvested. When you harvest lettuce or similar greens, remove only the outer, older leaves. New leaves will continue to grow from the center and you'll be able to eat salads all winter long. Harvest head lettuce all at once when the head is full and firm.
     
     
    - January, February, March, November, December
  • Frost Dates -

    The first and last frost dates for Santa Clara County are November 15 and March 15. These are important—but approximate—dates for gardeners to remember.

    • First frost date—this is the earliest date you should expect frost to occur. If you have plants that need to be brought in for the winter, or crops you need to pick before frost, this date will be important to you.
    • Last frost date—after this date, you wouldn't expect any more frosts. It's generally used as a milestone when planting outdoors, or pruning frost sensitive plants (such as citrus where you don't want to stimulate delicate new growth until danger of frost is past).

     

     Also see: Frost—Avoidance and Dealing with Damage

    - January, February, March, November, December
  • Harvest Kiwis -

    Pick kiwis in late fall while is still hard like an avocado, softening at room temperature. Watch the vine for signs of ripeness. A few fruit will turn soft or the skin color goes from greenish to full brown. Fruit can be left on the vine after leaves have fallen. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 4 months or at room temperature for about 2 weeks. More details about Kiwifruit Culture is provided by the California Rare Fruit Growers.

    - November
  • Paint Fruit Trees to Prevent Sunburn -

    After deciduous fruit trees have dropped their leaves, paint tree trunks with white latex paint diluted 1:1 with water to prevent sunburn. Preventing sunburn helps trees resist invasion by shot hole borers, which are tiny beetles that boreholes and lay eggs in the cambium layer of the tree. When the eggs hatch, young larvae feed and excavate tunnel galleries in the wood. For more information about identification and control see UC Pest Note on Shothole Borer.

    - November, December
  • Garden Cleanup -
    It’s an excellent idea to keep the garden clean at all times and to remove dead or dying plants or diseased material. Yet there may be bigger seasonal cleanups when taking out crops that have finished producing or that need to be removed to make room for new plants. Trim woody or overgrown perennials. You should remove plant debris that allows insects and diseases to overwinter and then reproduce. In particular, always pick up fruit promptly from the ground so as not to invite critters or to allow diseases to proliferate. It’s particularly important to remove dried-up fruit “mummies” so that the fungal spores don’t spread. You can leave healthy fallen leaves in place to form a mulch and decompose naturally, or you can rake them up and add them to the compost pile with other disease-free plant material. Do not compost diseased material. Monitor the health of your plants while you're out cleaning up. Keep in mind that this may be more fun to do before the rainy season starts.
     
     
    - October, November

2. What to plant

  • Camellias -

    Camellia japonica ´Professor Charles S. Sargent’, by Barbara H. Smith, Clemson Extension
    Camellias can be planted in fall through spring. Since they bloom in winter, choosing a plant now will ensure that you know the color, shape, and size of the flowers with which you will live for many years. Camellias are not native to our area so may need some extra attention in order to grow successfully. Our native clay soil does not drain well so it must be amended for camellias. Our alkaline soil needs to be acidified, and sulfur pellets are one way to achieve this. The plants need some shade and need to be kept moist. Mulch helps hold in moisture, and pine needles, redwood bark, and coffee grounds are all good organic materials that will break down over time and help improve the soil. Pick up flowers as soon as they fall to the ground to avoid the spreading of a disease called Camellia petal blight. 

    More information: Camellia Pests

    - January, February, March, April, May, September, October, November, December
  • Planting Bulbs -

    Autumn is the time to plant bulbs that will bloom in Spring and Summer. Spring Some favorites include daffodil, crocus, freesia, ixia, and sparaxis. Summer flowers include and gladioli and Amaryllis belladonna. Choose large, firm bulbs that show no signs of decay. Plant them in well-drained and pre-moistened soil, preferably amended with compost, in a sunny or partly sunny location, in the ground or in containers. Place them at a depth of about two times as deep as the bulb is wide, with the growing tip pointing up and the root scar facing down. Lightly irrigate them until the winter rains kick in and provide natural watering.

    More Information: Planting Bulbs (Alameda County Master Gardeners)

    - September, October, November
  • Garlic Planting -

    Plant individual cloves of garlic now and they will grow into full heads by next spring. Choose the largest cloves and leave the natural papery wrappers on them. Plant them in moist, well-drained soil in a sunny location with the pointy tips up, about one inch deep. Space cloves about four inches apart to leave room for large heads to develop.

    The UCCE Master Gardeners of Napa County have more information about Growing Garlic.

    - November
  • California Poppies -

    California poppy
    The California poppy, seen on hillsides in late winter through early spring, can be grown in your own yard.

    It can re-grow from a taproot or reseed itself rapidly throughout your garden and lawn, so consider whether this would be acceptable. If it is, seeds can be scattered now or with initial rains for vibrant color in a couple of months.

    - November
  • Going Native -

    Native shrubs, trees, and flowers are well-adapted to our climate and soil, and support native butterflies and bees and other wildlife. They are drought-tolerant once they are established, but need adequate water for the first year or two to establish a strong root system that will help nourish the plant for years to come. Planting them in the fall gives them time to settle in before being hit by the heat of the summer sun. Consult Water Wise Plants and the California Native Plant Society for more information.

    - October, November
  • Ornamental Shrubs and Trees -
    Spring is when thoughts turn to planting, yet fall is an excellent time to plant perennials. You can plant many trees, shrubs, and other long-lasting plants in fall. This applies particularly well to California native plants. Putting them in now will give them a chance to start developing strong root systems with the winter rains before they are stressed by summer heat. Developing a healthy root system early in the life of a plant is important for long-term success.
     
    When choosing plants, consider our general Mediterranean climate as well as the microclimate of your yard. Sun times, water needs, wind exposure, and soil type can all impact the success of a plant. Make sure you know how large the plant will become, even if it looks fine now in a one-gallon or five-gallon container.
     
    More Information: Tree Selection Guide
    - September, October, November
  • Onions -
    Onions, by <a href='https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/yard-and-garden-growing-onions'>Iowa State University</a>
    Onions, by Iowa State University
    This is a good time to plant onions for nice big bulbs. Onions are biennial plants which means that they are programmed to go to seed in their second year. If they are planted too early in the year and grow too large before cold weather hits, they can be tricked in the spring into acting as if they are in their second year. This means that they will go to seed soon and put their energy into reproducing themselves rather than into growing large bulbs. Ideally, they should be no bigger than the thickness of a pencil when the cold weather causes them to go dormant. Plant onions from seeds if earlier in the fall or transplants if later. They do best in moist, well-drained soil. Harvest bulbs in the summer when the tops die back. You can plant green onions at any time and harvest them whenever they are about a quarter to half-inch in diameter.
     
    More information: Growing onions
     
    - November, December

3. Pests and Diseases

  • Mosquitoes -
    Make sure you don’t have any water sitting around from our late rains. Mosquitos breed in standing water and can pass along deadly West Nile Virus to people. Check and dump water from any buckets, pots, saucers, dishes, or wheelbarrows. Put containers away or turn them over to avoid collecting additional water. Keep chemicals balanced in swimming pools. Ponds, fountains, and bird baths can also be breeding grounds. Add mosquitofish to these bodies of water to eat mosquito larvae. They are an environmentally friendly means of control and are available free of charge from Santa Clara County Vector Control.
     
    More Information: Mosquito Management
     
    - January, February, March, April, May, October, November, December
  • Termites -

    TermitesTermites are very common in Santa Clara Valley.  The first sign of infestation may be the presence of winged forms or fecal pellets pushed out of the infested wood. 

    See the UC Pest Note on Termites to identify which type is present and the methods of control. Learn all you can before calling in the professionals.

    - April, November
  • Cabbageworms -

    Examine your cabbage and broccoli plants for imported cabbageworms. Larvae are green and very hairy, with an almost velvet-like appearance. Handpick the worms. The adult cabbage butterfly is white with one to four black spots on the wings; they are often seen fluttering around the fields. Whitish, rocket-shaped eggs are laid singly on the undersides of leaves. The cabbageworm is active throughout the year in California. Use row covers or screening to keep the adults out of your vegetables. For more information see UC Pest Note on Imported Cabbageworm.

    - October, November, December
  • Citrus Bud Mite - Leave It Alone -

    Lemon affected by citrus bud miteHave you ever seen weirdly shaped lemons or oranges that appear to have 'fingers'? This condition is caused by the Citrus Bud Mite. 

    It attacks newly forming flowers and fruits. The mite is only visible with a magnifying glass and has a elongated yellow body with four legs that appear to come out of its head. The mites feed inside the buds, killing them or causing a rosette-like growth of the subsequent foliage and distortion of flowers and fruit. The problem is usually limited to just a few fruit on the tree.

    Previously recommended oil sprays have not been proved effective. This is one of those pests that is best left alone. The oddly-shaped fruit is edible.

    For more information see UC Pest Note on Citrus Bud Mite.

    - November
  • Sooty Mold -

    If your citrus leaves have a black coating, you may have a sooty mold problem. This black mold can also be seen on citrus fruit, avocado leaves, magnolia leaves, hibiscus, other host plants, and even on sidewalks beneath trees.

    The sooty mold fungi grow on “honeydew”, a sticky substance excreted by plant-sucking insects such as aphids, scale, mealybug, and whitefly. They suck the sap out of plants and excrete excess sugars. It exists purely on the surface of a plant and is not a systemic issue. By itself, the fungi cannot kill the plant but it can coat the leaves to the extent that sunlight is prevented from reaching the leaf surface, thus reduce photosynthesis. 

    Ants protect the sucking insects from their predators so they can eat the honeydew. Keep ants out of trees and away from honeydew-producing insects by applying a sticky compound such as Tanglefoot on a tape wrapped around the trunk.

    Pruning branches to allow better air circulation also helps. You can hose off the mold itself with a strong jet of water. And you can eat the fruit once you wash off the sooty mold.  
     
    For more information, see Sooty Mold Management Guide.
     
    - August, September, October, November, December
  • Limes -

    Limes are easy to grow in our area and make a pretty addition to the landscape. They don’t take up as much space as some other citrus and can grow well in our native soil with plenty of sun. They need some fertilizing and occasional protection from the cold. Bearss Lime is a popular variety that has fruit ripening now. Other favorites include Mexican Lime, Australian Finger Lime, and a Limequat hybrid. Most limes are yellow when fully ripe and have a higher juice content at this stage; most limes in stores are green because they have a longer post-harvest life or shelf life. A tan, leathery sunken area at the end of the fruit is called blossom end rot in citrus. It can come from insufficient water, preventing calcium from getting all the way to the ends of the fruit (similar to blossom end rot in tomatoes.) You can freeze the fruits whole for year-round margaritas or whatever it is you do with your limes. Freezing weakens the cell walls, which makes it even easier to juice the limes after thawing.

    More Information: Growing Citrus Fruits

    - January, November, December
  • White Mold on Lettuce and Brussels Sprouts -

    White mold is a distinctive disease that most often affects stems and foliage at the base of cole crops* and lettuce plants. Affected tissue develops a soft, watery rot and white, cottony mycelium forms on the surface. Plants may wilt if stems are girdled by the decay. As affected tissue dries up, it turns yellow to white, and hard black sclerotia form on the surface or inside the dead stems. Get more information in the UC Pest Note on White Mold.

    * Cole crops include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi

    - November, December

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