Robin’s Nest Monthly Gardening Tips

Robin’s Nest Floral & Garden Center – 9399 Ocean Gateway (route 50 Westbound between Easton Truck Center & Sharp Energy), Easton, MD 21601 (410) 822-8700 (

November Gardening Tips


  1. Cut a few stems of holly with berries for making Christmas garlands. It’s early, but now’s the time to do it, before the birds eat all the berries. Stand them in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where birds can’t take them.
  2. Fall is for planting-trees, shrubs, bulbs, grass seed, mums, asters, pansies and the list goes on. The cooler temperatures, and more plentiful rainfall makes fall a wonderful time to plant. An added benefit to fall planting is that it gives you a head start for next spring. Plants that are planted in the fall will be all settled in and ready to grow when the ground thaws and temperatures warm up next spring.


  1. Plant daffodil and other spring flowering bulbs until the ground freezes. They will provide welcome color early next spring. Drifts of a dozen or more bulbs of one variety make the most impact. Planting depth is normally 3 times the height of the bulb and be sure to space the bulbs properly. Espoma Bulb Tone should be incorporated in the soil below the bulbs.
  2. Before the first anticipated hard freeze be sure to water all your trees and shrubs, including bulbs and perennial beds. You will need to provide at least an inch of rain per week, remember: if the sky doesn’t provide the rain you need to water! Allowing the soil to completely dry out will provide no moisture protection for the roots of your trees and shrubs when the ground freezes. Remember just because the air temperatures are cooler, the ground temperatures will sometimes remain warmer longer. Watering is a must!


  1. After November 15th you can begin pruning deciduous trees and shrubs. Begin by first removing all dead branches, stumps on scaffold limbs, and rubbing or wounded branches. After this step you can prune for plant form. The direction of new growth can be influenced by pruning off undesirable growth just above a bud that is placed on the stem in a direction you want the new growth to go.
  2. Mulching is one of the best lines of defense for plants against chilling temperatures. Mulching also can prevent the repeated freezing and thawing of soil that causes plants to “heave” out of the ground. But the trick is not to mulch too soon. Mulching needs to be done after the ground starts to freeze, but before the first significant snowfall of the year. If you mulch sooner, plants may not go completely dormant. In general, the end of November is a good time to apply mulch here in the Pittsburgh area. Apply a layer at least three to four inches thick around each plant. After you laid it down, gently pull it away from the trunks and stems to give plants room to breathe. This helps prevent disease problems.


  1. For all evergreens, camellias, rhododendron, azaleas, viburnum, and even roses, consider using Wilt-Pruf. This product will seal in the moisture and help protect the plant from winter’s bitter drying winds and protect the crown of newly planted shrubs when freezing and thawing cycles occur. One application will be enough for the winter season.
  2. Every weed you pull now will be many less to have to pull in Spring. So weed, especially perennial weeds. I know, you thought you were done with weeding. But pulling those weeds now, when the conditions are good, will cut down on problems in the spring.

Forcing Paper-whites, Hyacinths and Amaryllis Bulbs:

            When forcing paper-white bulbs in soil, you need seven to nine weeks to allow them to come into bloom.  Choose bulbs that have not yet sprouted and plant them within four weeks after purchase.  If you have to wait before planting store the bulbs in a dry warm room about 60 degrees.  Plant the bulbs in bulb pans, setting the bulbs up to their shoulders in gritty potting mix, and then adding enough gravel to cover the necks.  Soak the soil in the pots and allowing the water to drain.  Set the pots in room temperatures of 45-60 degrees and water sparingly, about once a week until the growth begins.  If you like the look of these beautiful flowers, but not the fragrance, you can now purchase unscented varieties of paper-whites.

Hyacinths can be forced in water and hyacinth glass vases.  Remember when purchasing these bulbs to look for ones “pre-chilled.”  Simply fill the vase with water to just touch the bottom of the bulb and place the bulb on the top.  You get two shows, the flowers at the top and the roots in the water.

Amaryllis bulbs need well-drained, gritty soil and to be planted in good, heavy pots, since the blooms are large and can make the pot top-heavy.  Plant the bulb with the top third showing above the soil line.  Water the pots thoroughly and place them in a warm room.  Maintain moderate moisture, not allowing the bulb to dry-out or set in water and fertilize each time you water.  They should come into bloom in about five or six weeks at normal home conditions.  The flower stalk will rise first, then the foliage.  The flowers can last up to two weeks, and if you have a larger bulb, you may get more than one or two flower stalks.

Proper Care of Cactus

            Cacti are probably the easiest plants to grow and care for since they require very little water. Simply place them in a south-facing window.  They can handle a range of temperatures from 38 degrees to 80 degrees.  Some varieties will require cooler temperatures to set their flowers.  Plant in well-drained sandy soil, and water only when the soil is dry to the touch, allow the water to drain from the bottom and dump out.  Never allow the cactus to sit in water and fertilize only in the spring and summer months at half the recommended rate, every third or fourth watering.  They can summer outside in the full sun but remember to bring them indoors before the temperatures fall below 60 degrees.

Pond Cleaning Made Easy – Fall is a great time to clean your pond.  Larger ponds benefit from cleaning every two or three years, while smaller ponds need to be cleaned every year.  Plan to begin when the pond plants have subsided, and all the tree leaves have been cleared away.

  1. Begin by filling a large container with pond water to be used as a temporary location for the fish in your pond. Use your ponds pump and hose to drain the water from your pond. It is a good idea to use that water on your garden plants, as it is remarkably high in nutrients.
  2. When the pond is almost drained, net out the fish, snails, and frogs and place them in the temporary container. Remember to cover the container to keep the fish from jumping out.
  3. Remove the pond plants from the pond and cover with newspaper to keep them moist.
  4. Use a plastic scoop to remove all the organic debris from the bottom of the pond. Use a hose and soft bristle brush or sponges to clean the sides and waterfalls of the pond.
  5. Place in the deepest part of the pond all your winter-hardy pond plants.
  6. Refill the pond with new fresh water. If you live in town, be sure to use a de-chlorinater to eliminate the chlorine from the water.
  7. Allow the new pond water to stand over night before introducing the fish. This will allow the water to be the same temperature as the storage container.

Creating a Cold Frame:

            Cold frames can give plants a head start on the seasons and sometimes even extend the season, or are great for starting plants from seeds.  A cold frame is nothing more than a bottomless box sunk into the earth and roofed over with glass or plastic.

The ideal position for a cold frame is facing toward the south on a slope.  It is good to have the glass or plastic door at a 45-degree angle to allow for the rains and snows to slide off.  The heat from the day will keep the box warm at night.  You do need to open the door when air temps in the cold frame reach 90 degrees, since you could be harming the plants.

When constructing the cold frame, you can use concrete blocks, bricks, or rot-resistant lumber.  Cover the frame with a set of old storm doors or other old windows or make a frame and cover it in plastic.  Place an outdoor thermometer inside the cold frame to view the inside temperatures without opening the box.

Inside the cold frame use flats filled with good soil, rich in organic matter.

Listen for Ken’s tips on the air Tuesdays & Thursdays (7:20am on 94.3 WINX-FM & 7:40am on 96.7 WCEI). Ken can be reached at Robin’s Nest at 410-822-8700.