November Gardening Advice

The spiky shell of a chestnut conker partially open. The nut lies on autumn leaves on the ground and peeks out of the shell.

The smell of wood burning, the crackle of bonfires and the colourful explosion of fireworks means we’re into November, so get your month off to a bang by wrapping up warm and embracing the season. Light home fires, collect conkers and enjoy hearty soups made from your homegrown vegetables. This is the cosy season!

However, don’t get too comfortable. There are still plenty of gardening jobs to be done, which will keep you warm on a chilly autumnal day.

But if venturing out into the cold doesn’t appeal to you, then kick-back in front of a warming fire and reminisce over your recent growing season. Think about your growing successes, the failures, and then consider what you want to grow, or change, next year. Draw up lists, make plans, and think ahead. If you need inspiration then go online and look at what other people have achieved. The internet is full of gardening websites, blogs and forums, by gardeners who inspire and pass on seeds of good advice.

Start planning now! Because before you know it, spring will be knocking on your door.

In the flower garden

Perennials

Perennial plants have done their job and are now looking worse for wear. If garden wildlife has eaten the seeds, and you don’t want structure in your garden over the winter months, cut down the plant and mulch.

Any plants that aren’t frost hardy, and can’t be lifted for storage, give them a heavy mulch around the base. Don’t cover over the plant, as the moisture can cause the plant to rot. Failing that, protect the plant with horticultural fleece.

Tulip bulbs on the ground, ready for planting in autumnTulip bulbs

Whether it’s swathes of tulips, container-grown, or individual flowers dotted around your garden, now’s the time to plant your bulbs. Temperatures are dropping daily, so there’s no longer a threat of tulip fire infection. Avoid bulbs that show signs of decay, mould or damage, and plant three times to the depth of the bulb. If you’re planting into heavy soil add grit for drainage, as bulbs sat in water will rot. You may want to cover the area with netting, to prevent mice and squirrels digging them up.

Roses

Most plants and shrubs are dormant over the winter months, so this is an ideal time to move and plant new roses. Bare root varieties tend to be cheaper than potted plants and the choice is endless. Once planted, water in and mulch thoroughly to prevent frost from damaging the roots. If you already have established roses, make sure any fallen leaves are burnt or removed from the site, as these may have suffered blackspot and could infect your plant next year.

Dahlias

Depending where you are in the UK, you may have already had your first frost. If not, it’s only a matter of time. Therefore, ensure your dahlia tubers are dug up and stored. This also applies to cannas. Dahlias can be stored in boxes filled with scrunched paper and placed somewhere cool and dark. If this isn’t an option, place tubers in a pot of damp compost and kept somewhere cool.

Hedges

Time to plant hedgerows and conifers. Before planting, ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil. With clay soil, you may also want to add grit for drainage. Depending on the hedge it may need a support and tying in, just until it establishes itself. Water in well and mulch.

Hard-wood cuttings

It’s not too late to take hard-wood cuttings, Plants include buddleia, vines and cornus. Make a sharp cut just beneath a bud and an angled cut across the top of the cutting. The angle ensures moisture runs off and doesn’t rot the cutting. Your cutting should be the length and width of a pencil. Place the straight end into a pot of compost, up to its middle. Try to use a square pot and place cuttings in each corner, any heat will bounce off the corners of the pot and onto the cutting. Ensure the compost is damp, and place in a cold frame and greenhouse.

A compost bin full of autumn leaves to provide leaf mulchLeaf mulch

There are plenty of fallen leaves to clear away, but don’t get rid of them. Create a pen with chicken wire and four wooden stakes. Then place the collected leaves within the wired square and leave for up to twelve months. This will breakdown into a rich mulch, which can then be used for your garden. If you don’t have the space for a pen, either an old plastic bin or garden bags will do. Create several holes, so moisture can drain away and the airflow will help the bacteria breakdown the leaf matter. Store them out of the way, where they won’t be disturbed.

Lawn

Lawns won’t need to be mowed now until next spring. However, with leaves and debris falling, you need to ensure you keep lawns clear. This will prevent pests taking shelter, and there’s no chance of damaging your lawn with the ‘browning off’ effect. Finally, if you wake to frosts, try to keep off the lawn, as you could potentially damage it.

Maintenance

With less to do on allotments and in gardens, you can switch your attention to carrying out repairs and maintenance on garden tools. From secateurs to shears, your tools should be cleaned and sharpened. Ensure your lawnmower has been cleaned, checked, and drained of fuel.

Pots and seed trays will also need cleaning – warm soapy water will do – and stored. Try not to buy new plastic pots to reduce waste and use what you’ve got, or why not make your pots? There are kits available for making biodegradable plant pots that will add a personal touch to your plant growing next season.

If you’re leaving stone or terracotta pots outside over winter, make sure they’re standing on clay feet or bricks. Otherwise a ground frost can damage and cause pots to crack. Being off the ground will also help potted plants as it drains off excess water.

Pots can be expensive, so protect them as best you can by grouping them all together in the sunniest part of the garden. You could also try wrapping them in bubble wrap.

A wooden bird feeder in the shape of a house against an autumn woodland backgroundWildlife

If you haven’t done so yet, fill your bird feeders. Ensure they’ve been thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water and rinsed.

Put out fresh water for the birds, but try to ensure it doesn’t ice over.

You can also consider building insect hotels. Leave small piles of wood in corners of your garden to allow wildlife somewhere to rest over winter.

On the veg patch

Broad beans

If you’re hoping for an early crop of broad beans next year, sow now. Ensure all weeds are removed and add plenty of organic matter. Plant seeds in double rows, to the depth of two inches and nine inches apart. Water in well and cover over with either a cloche or horticultural fleece. Not only will the seeds benefit from the extra warmth, but they’ll be protected from birds and vermin.

Certain crops benefit from a good frost, turning their starches into sugars. Parsnips, swede, and Brussels sprouts will be tastier after a cold spell. If you are lifting these crops on a cold day, make sure you do it with a fork, carefully prising them from the hardened soil.

Spring cabbages

If you sowed cabbage seed weeks ago, they should now be healthy young plants ready for planting out. Brassicas are hungry plants, so ensure the bed has been well cultivated with plenty of organic matter dug in.

Plant your plants deep, just below the first set of leaves, to prevent damage from ‘wind rock’. Water in well and mulch. You may also want to protect your plants with horticultural fleece or cloches.

Leafy potato tubers growing in a green grow bagChristmas potatoes

If you’re growing spuds for the big day, then check them regularly. If they’re in grow bags or sacks, try to keep them somewhere, bright, warm and protected. As the stems gather height, ensure you earth them up. Not only will this encourage further tubers, but it will protect them from the chill. Finally, with dampness in the air and fluctuating temperatures, keep an eye out for blight.

Glue bands

Pests will be looking for somewhere to rest up over the next few months, laying eggs and eating tender shoots which can have a devastating effect on fruit trees. Try wrapping glue bands around the trunk base of your apple, pear, cherry and plum trees to stop pests, such as winter moth caterpillars, climbing the trees to lay their eggs.

Other Jobs

  • Disconnect garden hoses and protect garden taps as frozen water can burst pipes.
  • Bring inside potted up herbs.
  • Regularly check stored fruit, onions, squashes and potatoes for rot. Disregard any that have been spoilt.
  • As gardens die-back, you get a real sense of the blueprint of your garden. So, if you’re thinking of doing structural work, such as laying a new path or building a fence, now’s the time to do it.
  • If you’re planning a bonfire, check the woodpile first for any hidden wildlife.

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