Verdant View – November 2023

Starting Again

November is the month that symbolizes change. Our summer is at an end, the winds blow a bit cooler, the skies are more overcast and we start the month with Dia y Noche de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, one of my favorite Mexican holidays.

The Mayans celebrate the Day of the Dead, translated as Hanal Pixan, which means food, nourishment for the souls and spirits. The Mayans said, “We came into the world to learn as apprentices of life.” People fear death because they do not understand it. They maintained that in order to die, one must learn to live; to be born, the seed must fall and die. This concept is corroborated in the adage: In dying, the power of death is annihilated for all eternity. They were not referring only to physical death, but to death in a mystical sense, with the transformation of the ego, of sin, of the dark part we carry inside. For the Mayans, it was critical to transform negative feelings, where at last, death becomes authentic. For it was death to the ego, to the “I” that held transformation – Mexicarte Museum.

Recently, in the New York Botanical Gardens the Garden Conservancy held its first annual Gardens Futures Summit. The Garden Futures Summit centered around three themes: environment, community and culture. The garden of the future that this event imagined is one that is changing. It also is a vehicle for needed change. Gardens will be everywhere. The aesthetics of gardens will change. We will think of gardens as a network. Future landscapes will prioritize function. Gardens will need to be able to handle intense rains, and drought too. The conversation around native plants will be more nuanced; local plants and ecological function will be key. In short, these experts see our relationships with our gardens becoming richer, deeper and more filled with meaning. It’s a vision of the future any sustainable gardener should embrace.

This year has been one of the hottest years on record. As we deal with change and approach a climate crossroads, we are asked to consider how we as gardeners need to change. What resources will be needed to support our future gardens? What resources will we have in the near future to work with, in our gardens?

“Life starts all over again, when it gets crisp in the fall.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

What to plant in November

During the fall season, cool weather allows crops to hold longer in the garden once mature. Crops like broccoli, cabbage, and kale can live for months in the garden after they reach maturity.

Fall crops do much better when started from transplants than from seed, and transplants should always be used for tomatoes and peppers. Buy the largest transplants available. Or you can start your own plants earlier in the season and transplant them. Plant shade-tolerant crops between taller veggies like tomatoes.

Create a display of fall colors with cool-season plants. Some examples include pansy, viola, snapdragon, dianthus and alyssum. Continue planting herbs from seeds or plants. A wide variety of herbs prefer cool, dry weather, including cilantro, parsley, sage, and thyme. Continue planting cool-season crops, such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, kale and lettuce. Divide and replant overgrown perennials and bulbs now so that they establish before the cold weather arrives. Take advantage of lower temperatures to apply horticultural oil sprays to control scale insects.

Take note: Just because summer has passed doesn’t mean you can skip out on paying close attention to your plants’ watering needs. Fall can still bring some hot, dry days that can be hard on plants if you haven’t had enough rain. If you’ve purchased fall flowers for pots, keep in mind that container plants dry out much faster than those in the ground.

The weather can be cool in the daytime and sometimes cold at night. At the viveros look for snapdragons, stocks, fuchsias, poinsettias (Nochebuenas), pansies, petunias and phlox. Sweet peas may begin blooming.

You can still plant lettuce, peas, kohl rabi, spinach and Swiss chard, beets, carrots, garlic, mustard, onion, parsley, radish, spinach, turnips, and herbs, broccoli, kale.

Mist fuchsias and water garden regularly, keeping in mind that the native plants know how to deal with the dry seasons. Most orchids can take more sun now. Order seed catalogues for next year and begin planning. Now is a very good time to get the garden cleaned up for winter. Fill in bare spots with blooming plants from the viveros and plant sellers.

Many plants are going into their dormancy period and fall is a good time to prune.  Winter is a good time to prune large trees, shrubs and small trees. Deciduous foliage is absent and helps make pruning more visible and reduces clean-up material. 

Plant colorful ornamental cabbage and kale for vibrantly rich reds, blues, and purples to accentuate other garden colors all winter long.

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Francisco Nava
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