What to do in your garden in November.
* Amaryllis. These gorgeous bulbs produce huge single or double trumpet-shaped flowers up to 9 inches wide just five to eight weeks after planting. Dwarf varieties produce smaller flowers but their stems are not as leggy. Colors include coral, pink, red, salmon, white, yellow, and striped and feathered bicolors. Look for the bulbs at your local nursery or order from John Scheepers (www.johnscheepers.com or 860/567-0838) or Wayside Gardens (www.waysidegardens.com or 800/845-1124).
* Grasses. If you garden on a slope, make sure it's thoroughly planted so it won't erode if winter rains are heavy. To temporarily secure a bare slope or one that's newly planted, sow seeds of a perennial grass such as blue wild rye (Elymus glaucus), available from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (www.groworganic.com or 888/784-1722).
* Mums. Sunset climate zones 7-9, 14-17: Blooming chrysanthemums in fall hues are still available at nurseries and florists. Grow them in pots to add instant color near entryways and patios. As soon as flowers die, cut back plants to 6 inches from the soil level. Transplant them into larger pots or in sunny beds; water regularly.
* Trees and shrubs. Zones 7-9, 14-17: For vivid autumn color, shop for trees such as birch, Chinese pistache, crape myrtle, ginkgo, Japanese maple, liquidambar, persimmon, and 'Raywood' ash. Also look for colorful shrubs--deciduous azaleas, barberry, oakleaf hydrangea, smoke tree, and Viburnum; and vines such as Parthenocissus.
* Wildflowers. For colorful spring bloom, choose a mix made for your climate or buy mixes for specific purposes, such as attracting butterflies or beneficial insects. Three regional seed sources are Clyde Robin Seed Company, Castro Valley, California (www.clyderobin.com or 510/785-0425); Larner Seeds, Bolinas, California (www.larnerseeds.com or 415/868-9407); and the Wildflower Seed Company, St. Helena, California (www.wildflower-seed.com or 800/456-3359).
* Winter greens. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Colorful chard, kale, lettuce, and mustard greens are not only nutritious and delicious, they're also beautiful. A range of choices in sixpacks are still available in nurseries. Greens are easy to grow in containers at least 12 inches in diameter and are perfect for patios or porches. Pots of living greens also make great holiday gifts. Plant seedlings this month so they fill out by December.
* Houseplants. As days get shorter and the sun changes position, houseplants may not get the right type of light--bright and indirect. Move them to a brighter spot. Plants may also need less water as temperatures drop (unless the house is kept warm).
* Water. If rains are infrequent, irrigate newly planted lawns, landscape plants, and vegetables often enough to keep the soil moist. Periodically check established plants, and water them when necessary. Don't forget to water plants under eaves that may be sheltered from rain. Turn off automatic irrigation systems when rains begin.
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Build a compost pile
To dispense with all those fallen leaves you rake up this month, build a compost pile. Start with a 4-foot-wide piece of 12- to 14-gauge wire fencing.
1 Bend the wire into a cylinder about 4 feet in diameter. Wire together the cut edges.
2 Fill the cylinder with alternating 6-inch layers of brown matter (such as dried leaves and wood chips) and green matter (such as grass clippings). Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate it every week or so. (Lift the cylinder and move it to one side; fork materials back into it.) Compost is ready when it's brown and crumbly; this could take a few months in cooler weather.