Posts Tagged ‘autumn planting’

October Gardening Advice

October 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


The clocks go back later this month, as we wave goodbye to what has been a scorching summer. Now’s the time to enjoy the autumnal colours. From vibrant leaves, to ripe pumpkins, these are precious moments to savour.

And as the wildlife begins storing supplies to sustain them through the colder months, we should do the same. Keep harvesting, and if you can’t eat it, store it. You’ll appreciate it on a cold day when homemade soup is calling.

In the flower garden


It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. However, we can still enjoy colour in our gardens, so think about polyanthus, pansies and primroses.


If you’re looking ahead to next spring, then now’s the time to sow hardy annuals. Cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers can either be sown directly into the soil or into seed trays with sieved seed compost.

Place in water-filled tubs, and let the trays soak the water up, as watering overhead will disrupt the soil, and spoil the seed. Place carefully in a warmed greenhouse, and keep an eye on them throughout winter. You can also sow sweet peas in pots, and let them grow on in the greenhouse.


It’s been a great summer for sun-loving plants. But as the nights draw in, and temperatures begin to drop, this is the time to bring in your tender plants and give them some winter protection. Cannas are not made for colder weather, so find a spot in your greenhouse or shed, where it’s light and frost-free.

Cut away dead flowers or leaves to help prevent rot. For further protection, you may want to consider wrapping them in fleece. Over the colder months, check plants regularly.



Finally, you can think about planting your tulip, daffodil and allium bulbs. Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is plant them to the depth of three times their height. Ensure the soil is well drained, as sitting in water over winter will increase their chances of rotting, so consider adding grit for drainage.

There is so much you can do with bulbs, whether planting in clumps, individually or among other varieties. If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.


If you haven’t done so yet, then now’s the time to lift both dahlia and gladioli bulbs. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to several cms above the tuber, turned upside down and left to drain for a few days. Once dried, these can be placed somewhere cool, dark and frost free.



As the leaves begin to fall, it’s important you keep on top of them and rake them clear from your lawn. Any build-up can harbour pests, stop light getting to your lawn, and create a ‘browning off’ effect. It’s especially important to keep paths and patios leaf-free as with a layer of frost, it can be easy to slip and hurt yourself.

If you’re not placing them on a compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leaves make for a great leaf mould, so by leaving them to rot down for six to twelve months, you’ll have free leaf mould which is great for mulching plants. If space is an issue, use bin liners which can be tucked away in small spaces. Make sure you create several small holes in the bags, however, or your leaves will quickly become a bag of badly-smelling slush.


By now, they may be looking shabby, but these plants can still offer benefits for winter wildlife. If you’re not going to leave them for the winter, cut the plants back to the base. If they’re summer flowering perennials, this is the time to divide and re-plant, to increase next year’s summer blooms. For protection against dropping temperatures, ensure you mulch around the plant. Don’t cover them over, or touch the stems, as this will encourage rot.

On the veg patch


This will be the final opportunity to harvest the last of your tree fruit, such as apples and pears. What isn’t going to be used straight away, can be stored. Ideally use slatted shelves or boxes, and place the fruit carefully on them. Check that each fruit is not bruised or damaged, and try not to let it rest on another fruit. Place in a frost-free, dark, but well-ventilated cool room, such as a larder or cellar. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoilt.

Now’s the time to lift and divide rhubarb crowns. Using a sharp spade, divide the crown, ensuring each section contains at least one growing point. Re-plant in well drained, fertile soil, ensuring each crown is well spaced.



Garlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves, so now’s the time to plant it. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.

In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves at 20cm apart, in rows 30cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, just to stop birds from pulling them up.


Herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander are not frost hardy. Therefore, pot them up and bring inside. Placing on a well-lit windowsill, should keep them happy over winter.


If you’re hoping to use your greenhouse over the colder months, but an electric heater is not an option, then consider insulating it with bubble wrap. It’s a cheaper option which won’t reduce the light entering your structure. As the days get colder, make sure doors and vents are kept closed and any damaged panels are quickly repaired.


If you’re leaving vegetable beds empty over winter, turn the soil. This will not only get air into the soil, but will expose hiding pests. You can also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. Over winter, the worms and weather will help break it down, and integrate it into your bed.


Other Jobs

If you’ve had houseplants outside, now’s the time to bring them back inside. Ideally, let them slowly acclimatise to the indoor heat, otherwise, the shock may damage them.

With boilers and central heating starting to kick in, keep house plants away from direct heat sources. Place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.

As this is the month of Halloween, it’s time to carve your pumpkins! This is a great opportunity to get children involved with the allotment or growing patch. Not only will they have seen the pumpkin grow from seed, but they’ll get to harvest and enjoy it. Make sure you don’t waste the flesh though; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!


What to do in the garden in October

October 1st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

On the whole September was warm and pleasant in our part of Suffolk, and many of the flowers on the trial ground have looked good right through the month. Not surprisingly, our tuber-raised dahlias have been the stars with their magnificent blooms in so many colours and bicolors. Seed-raised dahlias also perform really well, and we know it still surprises some customers that they can be raised from seed, and will easily flower in their first year. While many gardeners tend to treat them as half-hardy annuals, they are actually half-hardy perennials and will produce tubers which can be lifted after the first frosts and stored somewhere cool and dry until next spring, when they can be replanted. All that for the price of a packet of seeds!

October - Sweet PeasFlowers
It’s October, so we make no apologies for making a big mention of sweet peas. This is the best month to sow sweet pea seed in pots to over-winter in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The stocky little plants can then be planted out in March or April to produce an early and long-lasting display of these beautiful flowers.

Our range of sweet peas is one of the best and widest you will find anywhere. In recent years it is true to say the sweet pea has almost become our ‘flagship’ flower, and we are proud of the worthwhile and exclusive introductions we make every year. Among our new ‘exclusives’ ready for sowing this month are two which we feel deserve special mention.

Chelsea Pensioners were on hand at our trial ground recently to name a blend of sweet peas in red shades aimed at raising funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea. It has been called Scarlet Tunic, after the Pensioners’ distinctive apparel, following a ballot of the residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a public online vote. We will donate 25p to the Royal Hospital Chelsea for every £2.19 packet of 20 seeds sold.

We hope Britain’s gardeners will help us to raise more funds for the Royal Hospital Chelsea with the launch of Scarlet Tunic for the 2016/17 season and in the years ahead. Our great customers have already helped raise more than £50,000 for the Royal Hospital Chelsea through sales in 2015 and 2016 of poppy Victoria Cross. A very big ‘thank you’ to you all.

We are also pledging our support for Greenfingers, the charity dedicated to creating magical gardens for children’s hospices, by naming another new and exclusive sweet pea after it. Sweet pea Greenfingers has an old-fashioned grandiflora flower form and the strong, memorable scent associated with those types in their Victorian heyday; its blooms are a rich cream with a delicate wire rim or picotée of pale violet. The climber is well suited to both garden display and as a cut flower, when its fragrance fills a room.

We have guaranteed 25p to Greenfingers for every packet of 20 seeds priced at £2.45 we sell during the 2016/17 gardening season. Greenfingers is a national charity dedicated to supporting the children who spend time in hospices around the UK, along with their families, by creating inspiring gardens for them to relax in and enjoy. The charity makes beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces for children to share with family, friends and siblings, whether through play and fun, or therapeutic rest and relaxation. To date Greenfingers Charity has created 51 such gardens and outdoor spaces, and has a further waiting list of hospices that need its help.

October - TulipsMost summer-flowering bedding and container plants will be ‘going over’ this month, and can be lifted and composted. Once the ground is clear and has been forked over, why not plant some spring-flowering bulbs and start looking forward to the first colourful display of 2017? We offer a terrific range of tulips – surely the most flamboyant of all spring performers. Plant them in October or November, and you can just about forget about them until they burst into bloom next April and May. This year we are offering many collections of tulips in complementary or contrasting colours, and plenty of single varieties for those of you who prefer to do your own colour-coordination.

Hardy perennials can be cut back during October to within a few inches of the ground. Discard the cut stems and any foliage strewn around the plants, as this will discourage pests and diseases which may otherwise lurk there during the winter. Once dahlia foliage has been blackened by the first one or two frosts, carefully lift the tubers with a fork, as you would potatoes, leave three or four inches of stem and store them somewhere dry, cool, but frost-free until you want them to burst into growth again next spring.

As buddleias finish flowering, it is advisable to cut them back to around half their height so they do not become rocked by autumn and winter gales, causing them to become loose in the soil. Next March they can be cut back much closer to the ground to encourage new growth and plenty of butterfly-attracting blooms.

October - Broad Beans AguadulceWinter-cropping brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, kale and savoy cabbages will benefit from the application of a general-purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone to help them grow a little more before the weather deteriorates. Hoe it in carefully round the stems without damaging the plants.

Seed of hardy peas and broad beans can be sown during October to provide a really welcome, early summer crop next year. Pea Meteor is one of the best for autumn sowing, and it does well with minimal support, even in cold, exposed locations. There are several excellent over-wintering broad beans from which to choose. Bunyards Exhibition and Aguadulce (formerly Aquadulce) are probably the two most widely grown, but The Sutton is a great choice for small gardens or windy sites, as the plants remain dwarf and compact throughout their life. Broad beans do best in well drained soil and in a reasonably sheltered position.

If you have not already done so, lift any remaining maincrop potatoes still in the ground as soon as possible. This will save them from either slug or frost damage. Store the tubers somewhere cool, dark and dry. Once the tops of Jerusalem artichokes start to turn yellow, the plants can be cut back close to the ground, leaving the tubers beneath the soil to be harvested as required in the weeks ahead.

If any parts of the garden or allotment are currently fallow after earlier crops have been harvested, sowing a green manure can do the soil a power of good. Depending on what is sown, it is possible to improve soil structure, increase its fertility, prevent the leaching of nutrients, and they will all help to suppress weeds. Among others, we offer crimson clover, lucerne (alfafa) and winter grazing rye.

Whether you are growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or aubergines in the greenhouse, it is a good idea to pick all you can this month and discard the plants. By the end of the month it should be possible to clean it out with warm water and a proprietary disinfectant to ensure it is not harbouring any diseases through the winter.

October - Raspberry Polka canes from Mr Fothergill'sIf you like the idea of a fruit bush or two in the garden or on the allotment, remember we are despatching our bare-root currants and gooseberries from this month onwards. We are very keen on the new blackcurrant Ebony, which is the sweetest one we know. The currants are larger fruited than other varieties and contain up to 15 per cent sugar, giving them a lovely full, rounded flavour. Ebony does well in our climate and has some resistance to mildew. In gooseberries, Xenia is one of the sweetest in our experience. This early season variety can be picked from June and into July, and the berries are sweet enough to be eaten straight from the bush.

Freshly picked raspberries take some beating in our book, and the new autumn-fruiting (primocane) Paris is one of the very best. The large berries can weigh more than 5gm each, and they are wonderfully sweet, aromatic and juicy. You should be picking Paris from August through to October. We begin despatch in 9cm pots from November, so now is the time to order this rather special new variety.

Facts and figures on Onions and Shallots

February 1st, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Onions from Mr Fothergill'sOnion red baronShallot sets

Onions and shallots are both botanically Allium cepa, with onions, which produce a single bulb, belonging to the Cepa Group and shallots, with their clusters of bulbs, part of the Aggregatum Group. Egyptian and tree onions belong to a third Proliferum Group.

No one is certain where onions originated, but central Asia, Persia (Iran) and Pakistan have all been suggested. Nor are we certain for how long onions have been cultivated, but we believe it to be around 5,000 years. Thanks to their concentric layers of flesh or circles within circles, they represented eternity to the Ancient Egyptians and were even buried with the Pharaohs. Traces of onions have been found in some Bronze Age settlements.

Athletes in Ancient Greece ate plenty of onions in the belief they would ‘lighten the balance’ of their blood. Roman gladiators rubbed themselves down with onions to firm up their muscles. Alexander the Great fed his army onions because he thought that strong food produced strong men. Another famous general, Ulysses S Grant, sent a telegram to the War Department in an onion shortage during the American Civil War saying “I will not move my army without onions”. He soon received his bulbs.

The Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed onions both as a diuretic and wound-healer. During the Middle Ages onions were used to treat snakebites, headaches and hair loss. At this period the onion was a staple of the European diet. Christopher Columbus took it with him to America, but wild onions were already growing there and being eaten by the native North American Indians. When the Pilgrim Fathers arrived more than a century later, onions were one of the first crops they grew on the land they cleared.

Nowadays around 9,000,000 acres of onions are grown worldwide annually. China and India are the two main producers, with the USA a long way back in third place. In the UK just 370 acres are devoted to the commercial production of shallots, with most of these in the eastern counties of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire. While shallots are easier to grow, quicker to mature and store better than onions, they are nevertheless only a minor crop in comparison.

The Ancient Greeks gave shallots their name, when their traders discovered them in the Palestinian port of Ashkalon and named them after the city. Shallots found their way to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries when crusaders brought them back from the Middle East.

Shallots are an integral part of many classic French dishes, including Boeuf Bourguignon. The French grey shallot or griselle is considered by some to be the ‘true’ shallot, and is famed for it5s intense, unique flavour.

Still widely grown by gardeners today, Bedfordshire Champion was introduced in 1885 and Ailsa Craig in 1899. Onions and shallots do best in an open, sunny position and in fairly rich, well drained soils. Acid soils should be limed before onions are grown in them. The application of well-rotted manure or compost to the soil in autumn is ideal for spring-sown or planted onions; onion seed should not be sown on freshly manured soil.


To browse all the onions, shallots and garlic we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow this link to the onion section of our website

Royal Horticultural Society


This article was first published on the RHS website January 2016. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing onions and shallots successfully.

A year of Nation of Gardeners: 2014 gardening highlights in pictures

December 24th, 2014 | Garden Diaries, Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

2014 has been a busy year for our gardening folk in the Nation of Gardeners group and so we thought we would put together a gallery of highlights from the group’s gardening year.

The group autumn planted bare root perennials in late autumn 2013. The survival rates overwinter were what we were looking for when protected in pots under cover, versus open ground planting.  By spring we were seeing what had survived such as these Cheshire planted Papaver Place Pigalle and Astrantia Moulin Rouge.

Cheshire Papaver comparison Spring 2014

Cheshire Astrantia comparison Spring 2014

By summer there were blooms like fireworks bursting into life in gardens around the UK from these autumn planted bare root perennials.

Papaver Place Pigalle in bloom in Devon

The Papaver Place Pigalle pictured to the left here in our Devon gardener’s hillside plot, impressed with its beauty – albeit a beauty that lasted only days on these young plants. We shall see if year two gives these plants longer flowering power.

Astrantia Moulin Rouge and Sedum Xenox also performed well; flowering long and hard from late summer onwards, as did any of the Eryngiums that survived slug attacks.  Pictured below and to the right here is a wonderful shot of the Eryngium in flower, again in our Devon gardener’s plot.

Devon eryngium2014 was ‘the year of the slug’ with a mild winter over 2013/14 not keeping these pests in check sufficiently.  Many of our gardeners reported in defeated tones of visiting their gardens where an overnight devastation of plants had taken place, which is a heart breaking moment many gardeners will empathise with.

The only bare root perennial that failed to perform significantly was the Cimicifuga. If not consumed by slugs, the surviving plants threw up a couple of leaves this year, but we shall have to wait a while to see these notoriously slow growers bring anything more exciting to our beds!

Antirrhinum Purple Twist in CumbriaThere were other blooms in the gardens too.  A new variety of Antirrhinum called Purple Twist was sent out to the group for raising from seed.

The seedlings proved tricky to raise, and were nicknamed by our Cumbrian gardener as ‘moody teenagers’. Of the plants that pulled through the perils of legginess and damping off, the results were quite amazing.

The snapdragon plants that actually made it out of ‘seedling-hood’ and into to our Nation of Gardener’s plots flowered profusely throughout the summer.  They needed a thorough frost check to diminish them at the end of the year, and being a perennial will likely reward our gardeners for many years to come.  Our Cumbrian gardener’s picture here shows them standing proud and tall in her beds in the North of England.

Sweet peas, a cultivar of which Mr Fothergill’s is justly proud, played a big part in our group’s activities.   Autumn versus spring sowings were tested which gave us some glorious results in summer.  We asked our gardeners to sow a reliable variety Sweet Pea Old Spice alongside an exclusive chocolate flake variety Sir Henry Cecil.

Hertfordshire and Suffolk sweet peas

Above are sweet peas just emerging in Hertfordshire and then just planted in Suffolk.  Below, are sweet pea blooms for our gardeners in Worcestershire, South Wales and Renfrewshire.  The best of both worlds, the scentless Sir Henry Cecil impressed our gardeners with the upright habit of these large blooms, and the scent of the Old Spice added that much sought after quality in bowls of sweet peas around the house.

Sir Henry Cecil didn’t only impress our gardeners either.  The blooms grown in the Peak District, Devon and Hertfordshire were all entered into sweet pea shows and won prizes, and so they are officially award-winning sweet peas by independent jury!

Worcestershire, Pontypridd, Renfrewshire sweet peas


There was an abundance of things to taste as well as grow this year too including, from left to right, salad leaves (Buckinghamshire), garlic (South Wales) and cucamelons (West Wales).


There were also peppers (Elgin), broad beans (Devon) and tomatoes (Bristol).

Elgin Peppers, Devon Broad Beans, Bristol tomatoes


There were blackcurrants (Renfrewshire), blackberries (Worcestershire) and black tomatoes! (Bristol)

Blackcurrants renfrewshire, Blackberries Worcestershire, Black Tomatoes Bristol

We mustn’t forget the strawberries!  This was another autumn planting versus spring planting trial.  Alongside this we also tested out our ‘Berry Quick’ product line of commercially ‘frozen’ strawberry plants that guaranteed fruit within 30 days of planting.  The Berry Quick did indeed produce fruits within 30 days for all of our gardeners, but the taste of the spring and autumn planted strawberries were preferred universally by our group proving that a longer and slower growing season is worth the wait.

Pictured here are the strawberry crops of our gardeners in Surrey, Renfrewshire and Ceredigion.

Surrey, Renfrewshire, Ceredigion strawberries

We trialled the late sowing of annuals and perennials in late summer.

Cheshire Godetia

In particular the Godetias impressed (pictured here in our Cheshire gardener’s plot).   These plants gave vigorous and long lasting blooms for many gardeners, and perhaps most impressive for many was the fact that it is a variety not grown so often.

Though a summer annual, these plants also proved to be reasonably cold tolerant with our Pontypridd gardener reporting that his Godetia still had flowers even after the first hard frosts in his area.

Late sown annuals in late September

Otherwise the annuals grown were workhorse varieties such as Calendula, Marigolds, Cornflowers and Alyssum, all of which produced beautiful mixed beds of flowers for our gardeners.  Pictured here is our Surrey gardener’s annuals bed pictured in late September in a prime condition.

Of the late sown perennials we shall have to wait until 2015 as these young seedlings have all been tucked up safely in greenhouses and coldframes around the UK to sit out the winter.  We are promised Echinacea, Poppies, Aubretias, Hollyhocks, Aquilegia and Lavender so watch this space.

Later in the year we asked our gardeners to plant mini plug pansies for overwintering.

Pansies in Bristol

The variety dispatched to our gardeners is a trailing pansy called Cool Wave, a breeding break-through which is the first true trailing pansy to be grown from seed.  Our gardener in Bristol was soon enamoured with her small pansy plants posting in these wonderful portraits of their individual personalities!

We asked our gardeners to plant out winter peas – Pea Meteor – and to leave them to the elements.  In the more northerly parts of the UK, the elements took these plants pretty quickly.  We shall see how our south-based gardeners get on with these plants early in 2015 and if they get a welcome early crop of peas from them as a result of the plants enduring a UK winter.

Herrtfordshire Christmas potatoes in November

Christmas potatoes were also planted in early autumn.  However, Christmas came early for many of our gardeners!

The warm and late summer weather, where we had lots of warm days right through September and into early October pushed these plants on faster than anticipated.  The plants grew and then died back prematurely forcing the tubers to be lifted in October and November for many.  Our Pontypridd gardener is determined to lift on Christmas Day though, so we shall see what hides under the compost once he has had chance to turn them out.

Pictured here is our Hertfordshire gardener’s potato crop.  Not huge, but good to get a new potato taste late in early winter.

As we slip into the depths of winter, our gardeners are tending overwintered salad crops and some very special woodland strawberries. Bob Flowerdew supplied Mr Fothergill’s with a yet-to-be-named variety and so our gardeners are going to be testing them out alongside the nurserymen at Mr Fothergill’s in Kentford.  We don’t know much about these plants yet and so our group of gardeners will help us determine the growing and cropping habits of these plants.

It has been a busy year for our group of gardeners and one that has been fruitful, both figuratively speaking and literally!  Follow us into 2015 for more gardening adventures with our group as we see what year two brings for many of the plants.

What to do in the garden in November

October 31st, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

There have only been a few signs during October that autumn is on the way, as temperatures have generally held up well and rainfall has been low.  The soil still feels warm, which means that onion sets, shallots and garlic planted recently should get off to a good start – and the same goes for October sowings of hardy annuals to provide plenty of colour from early summer onwards next year, which is something to look forward to.

The trial grounds have now been cleared of this summer’s flowers and vegetables, and all varieties of both have been assessed by our horticultural team, who can now make use of the information when they start to decide which new strains we should consider listing for the future.  One of the main functions of our trials is to decide whether new strains of flowers and vegetables are improvements on those we already offer.

The trials team will soon start preparing and improving the soil during the autumn to make sure it is in as good condition as possible for next year’s sowings.  Our soil here at Kentford is light and rather stony, but trials manager Brian Talman does a superb job in getting it into shape to produce plants of outstanding quality.  His knowledge and expertise is the result of 50 years spent in horticulture – and it shows!

Pumpkings on the trial field at Kentford

Now the clocks have been turned back, it really does seem that summer is over and that we are heading into winter.  As the nights draw in, the best type of gardening is sitting in a comfy armchair armed with a plant and seed catalogue or browsing the website before deciding what to grow next year.  Do try and grow one or two of our new introductions to see how they compare with your favourite varieties.  We go to great lengths to select only those varieties which we feel are improvements on older strains and those which we feel will perform well in our uncertain climate but we are always happy to hear feedback from our customers on how seeds perform around the UK.


Jobs in the flower garden in November

Tulip Prinses IreneAny remaining spring-flowering bulbs still to be set should go in the ground or containers this month.  Ideally, daffodils and hyacinths should already be planted in the garden in October, but tulips are usually planted later than these.  Unlike daffodils, they do not root until the weather turns colder.  Tulips originate from Turkey’s mountain slopes, where they experience cold winters, wet springs and roasting hot summers.  The closer we get to these conditions, the happier our tulips should be!

There are 15 ‘divisions’ or types of tulips, so we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which sorts to grow.  The so-called botanical tulips (divisions 12-15) include the compact growing Tulipa kaufmanniana and Tulipa greigii, which are just the job for planting in containers or at the front of beds and borders.  For sheer exuberance it is difficult to beat the Rembrandts (division 9), which includes the ‘broken’ colours, which were so sought after at the height of ‘Tulipmania’ in the Netherlands.  For large-headed, tall tulips, look out for the Darwin Hybrids (division 4); these look particularly effective in massed plantings, where they make a great splash of colour in late April and early May.

Tulip Couleur CardinalAnd so, November is the ideal time to plant tulip bulbs.  They do best in well-drained soil and in full sun.   Plant them deep – with 4-6in of soil above the top of the bulb.  Try tulip varieties such as Prinses Irene, Couleur Cardinal and Abu Hassan in the garden in November for some strong and vibrant extra colour in your spring beds next year.

Gladiolus corms can now be lifted ready for drying and storing for next year.  Carefully fork them out of the ground, removing all soil from round them before cutting off the dying stems about 5cm above the top of the corms.  Dry them in trays in the greenhouse or shed before removing the final piece of stem and storing the corms somewhere dry, cool, but frost-free until the time comes to plant them again next spring.

Beds and borders can now be given an autumn overhaul, removing leaves and other debris.  Falling leaves from deciduous trees are best swept up from lawns and borders as soon as possible to help prevent the build-up of pests and diseases.  Some people cram them into black binbags, spike them liberally with a fork and put them somewhere out of sight and mind for a year or so, after which they should have magically transformed into rich, crumbly leafmould, which makes a very good soil improver.

Any remaining annuals can also go on to the compost heap and perennials trimmed back to about half their full height.  Remember to remove any supports which were assisting taller types and store these in the shed until required again next summer.

Winter and spring bedding plants, such as polyanthus, primrose, pansy, bellis (double daisy) and forget-me-nots can now be planted out to the garden or to patio pots and containers.  They should be hardy and come through even tough winters relatively unscathed to provide us with some welcome early colour in the weeks and months ahead.

There is still just time to lift, divide and re-plant Iris reticulata, before they start to flower again in late winter and early spring.  They do best in full sun or partial shade, and are also well suited to pot culture thanks to their neat, compact habit.  The pale blue and yellow Katharine Hodgkin is deservedly one of the most popular of this type, and is widely available.

Gardener's fleeceBefore winter really arrives, wrap tender container plants with plastic bubble-wrap, fleece or hessian sacking, taking care to protect the stems well.  Alternatively, move the pots into a greenhouse or outhouse, if space allows.  Most of these tender plants will require only minimal watering in the months ahead as they pass into their dormant stage.

If you have any Begonia semperflorens still flowering in the garden, and in our experience they often flower into November in mild autumns, why not pot up one or two of the better looking specimens and bring them indoors to provide you with some ‘free’ house plants for a few more weeks?  They should do well on a warm windowsill.

If you have shrubs such as Deutzia, Buddleia, Forsythia and Viburnum growing in the garden and wish to increase your stock, why not try taking hardwood cuttings of these?

Once they have lost their leaves and start to become dormant, it is easy to choose healthy shoots from this year’s growth.  Remove any soft growth at the very tip and then cut into 15cm sections.  Make a sloping cut just above a bud at the top and a horizontal cut just below a bud at the base – so you will know how to plant them.  Fill a large pot with a gritty potting mixture (half coarse grit and half multi-purpose compost is good) and plant the cuttings so just a third of their length is above the surface.  Next spring they should make leaf growth, keep them well watered during the summer and next autumn you will have young plants for potting on or planting out.

As autumn winds increase, prune back hybrid tea and floribunda roses to at least half their height to prevent them becoming loose in the soil.  Final pruning, when they are cut back harder ahead of next year’s new growth, can be delayed until next February or March.

Wild birds love holly, pyracantha and cotoneaster berries at this time of year, but if you want to save some to use as part of your Christmas decorations in a few weeks’ time it is a good idea to net a branch or two now so you still have some left!  Many people feed the birds all-year-round, and they certainly need help during the winter.  Sunflower hearts are a superb (if rather expensive!) high energy food much loved by goldfinches, blue tits and a host of other birds.  Finely diced hard cheese, chopped up apples and mealworms (which can now be bought in dried form) are other treats which will ensure a wide range of feathered visitors call regularly at your bird table.  Place your feeding station in an open position, where predators will have no cover in which to lurk, and ideally somewhere it can be seen from your windows to provide you with a little entertainment.

If you are looking for shrubs which provide fragrant flowers at this darkening time of year, consider planting Daphne odora, viburnum and chimonanthus (wintersweet) close to a door or path which is used regularly and where you will be able to appreciate their wonderful scents.  They will make you feel spring cannot really be that far away!

It is becoming rather trendy to leave the skeletal forms of herbaceous perennials in place, as they can sometimes look good when frosted.  On the other hand, do not feel guilty if you like to have the garden ‘put to bed’ by the end of the year by cutting them down to ground level during November!


Jobs in the vegetable garden in November

EnviromeshPigeons can often be a nuisance on brassicas at this time of year, stripping the leaves and leaving the plants struggling to survive.  A netting or fleece cover should help to protect your winter crops from these damaging marauders.

Check that Brussels sprout plants are still firm in the ground.  If they are becoming loose, heel them back into the soil to prevent them being blown over by strengthening autumn winds.  Pick up any yellowed leaves they have shed to prevent them harbouring any pests or diseases.

When conditions allow, start digging over any fallow sections of the vegetable plot or allotment. If you can incorporate well-rotted farmyard manure or home-made compost so much the better, as this will improve the fertility and structure of your soil. When you are clearing runner bean plants from the vegetable plot or allotment, why not just cut off the stalks at ground level, leaving their roots in the ground?  These provide a good source of nitrogen, which will be of benefit to subsequent crops planted in the ground.

Keep an eye on maincrop carrots and swede still to be harvested. If cold weather threatens, they may benefit from a mulch of compost or straw to protect them.  Alternatively, lift them and, if space allows, store them in boxes of dry sand until  required later in the season.

If parsley is still looking green and healthy in the garden, cover it with fleece or a cloche to keep it going for as long as possibly.  With a little luck, you should be able to keep a supply going through the winter and into next spring.  It makes a great addition, finely chopped, to home-made vegetable soup using leeks, potatoes, carrot, swede and parsnip, plus a stock cube or two.

Tomato,  aubergine and pepper plants can now be cleared out of the greenhouse and composted, along with the contents of any growing bags.  If the greenhouse is now empty, this is the ideal time to clean the panes inside and outside and to give it a thorough clean with a solution of Jeyes Fluid or similar to ensure it is as clean as possible for your next crops.  Seed trays and pots will also benefit from similar treatment, if you can find the time.

Staying in the greenhouse, there is a still time to make sowings of salad leaves in troughs or other containers.  Sow the seed thinly, and in just a few weeks you will be cutting tender ‘baby leaves’ for early winter salads.  Most are suitable for ‘cutting and coming again’ to give you more than one harvest.  Rocket, winter lettuce and mizuna are just some of the leaves you can sow.

salad leavesWhy not make sowings of salad leaves such as mixed lettuce or rocket in half-size seed trays and grow them indoors if you don’t have a greenhouse?  Placed on the kitchen windowsill, they will provide plenty of baby leaves for winter salads, sandwiches or simply as an attractive garnish to other dishes.  It is also worth sowing a pot or two of basil to grow alongside the leaves, if you love its Mediterranean flavour in your dishes through the autumn.  Even the very young leaves have that characteristic smell and taste!


Jobs in the fruit garden in November

November is usually a good month in which to plant bare-root fruit trees.  The soil is not yet hard and still retains some warmth, giving roots a chance to get established before winter really begins.  So if you have always wanted to create an orchard in your garden, or wish to expand the number of trees you already have, then now is the time to think about what you would like to plant.

Victoria Plum tree

We dispatch our fruit trees from late November onwards and offer a fine selection of both old favourites, such as Victoria Plum and Egremont Russet apple, and top-class modern varieties such as apricots Tomcot and Flavourcot.

Established fruit trees will benefit from an autumn mulch with well rotted organic matter.  This will not only help the soil to retain moisture and suppress weeds, but it will be drawn down into the soil to enrich it as autumn progresses into winter.

Trim out dead wood on summer fruiting raspberry canes if you have not already done so and either add the canes to the bonfire or chop into a compost heap for slow decomposition.  As the first hard frosts come in November you will find your autumn fruiting raspberries will suddenly stop fruiting and so keep on picking until this happens as they will not keep on fruiting forever!

japanese wineberry

Fancy growing some melt-in-the-mouth, juicy raspberries next summer?  We start despatch our top-quality canes this month as it is now also the perfect time to plant new soft fruits such as raspberry canes, gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants or lift and divide (or lift and donate to friends!) any canes that have run out of their beds to help keep them in check.

Specially selected and grown from certified stock, our raspberry canes have a well developed root system and will start cropping as early as next summer.  Why not place an order for early season Malling Minerva, main season Glen Fyne or later cropping Tadmor?  Better still, order all three to ensure as long a season as possible.  You can never have too many raspberries!

Remember you will need strong posts at either end of the row, with thick wire running between them at regular intervals.  The canes can then be tied on to the wires as they grow next spring.  When planting the canes, spread the roots out carefully and plant at the same depth as the soil mark on the stems.

If you are looking for some unusual soft fruit to plant this autumn, our boysenberry, LingonberryJapanese wineberry and tummelberry may just take your fancy.  They need only the minimum of care and will reward you with good crops for many years to come.

Check stored apples and pears regularly to ensure they remain sound.  Remove and discard any which are starting to rot before they start causing those close to them to deteriorate.  Moving them around a little as you check also improves air flow round the fruit.