I find that early November is a wonderful time to get out in the yard for several reasons. I like to get everything tidied up and looking good for the holiday season ahead. Also, some time spent now can eliminate potential problems from the yard that might add to holiday season stress. Besides, it has cooled down and is now pleasant to get outside and get chores done.
Give your irrigation system a good going over. Replace clogged or missing emitters. Fix any leaks. Replace the back-up battery in your timer if you haven’t done so in more than a year. Don’t have an irrigation system? Autumn is a good time to install one. It is less stressful for plants to have their roots disturbed in their dormant season. You may also find a good deal on installation as companies try to keep trained crews and may reduce their prices just to have the work. Incidentally, reduce irrigation frequency if you haven’t already.
Official “first frost” date in Tucson is November 15th. This date is especially crucial for seeds or tiny young seedlings, but you could still plant annual color or vegetables from nursery sets. If frost is predicted, water the soil under tender plants like young vegetables or citrus trees.
Herbs and other perennials can be planted now. This includes dividing and transplanting iris and other clumping perennials. Avoid excessive dividing of the clumps since it reduces spring bloom.
Add color to your winter landscape with annual plants and bulbs. Now is almost too late to plant the spring flowering bulbs such as narcissus, tulips, freesia, but if you get them in before mid-November they should be fine. Bulbs and annuals should go into beds amended with compost or containers with potting soil.
If we do get any rain, you really want to catch and remove winter weeds as they germinate.
Some types of citrus may be ripe. You have five to six weeks in late autumn to enjoy tangerines. Most other citrus ripens later. Citrus are ripe when they fall into your hand with a very gentle tug. Do not yank or cut them off, they will not have reached their full ripeness. Store any unharvested fruit right on the tree.
Harvest and enjoy pecans. Pecans right off the tree are delightful and far better tasting than store-bought. Also, harvest and enjoy the last of the pomegranates.
Rake up autumn leaves. Add to compost pile or bury in unused beds for slow decay.
Here’s a fun idea. Press leaves and flowers for use on bookmarks, notecards or other homemade gifts. Telephone books work wonderfully to flatten and dry thin flowers like pansies, salvia, snapdragon, and almost any flat leaf like dill, cilantro, or Mexican buckeye. Later glue these on cardstock and cover with clear contact paper for truly thoughtful gifts.
If you do none of the above, at least sit in your yard and enjoy our awesome Arizona autumn while you soak up a little vitamin D.
Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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