November is a great time to work in the garden to prepare for the colder weather to come.
As the temperature drops and the nights draw in, the garden starts to hibernate, but it still has much to offer. Apart from doing a good garden tidy, cleaning tools, ordering seeds and general housekeeping, you can still plant trees, hedging, shrubs, bulbs, roses and winter vegetables. The autumn colours are wonderful, from soft yellows to bright oranges, deep reds and crimsons. Here are some key things to consider for the garden this month.
Don’t cut back too soon
Tidy beds and clear old stems and foliage, but some plants and grasses look lovely when left to catch the early frosts.You can cut back perennials and divide congested clumps, but leave about 15cm of old growth to protect the crown of less hardy plants and prevent winter damage.
Make the most of fallen leaves
The leaves are falling from trees all around the garden and the temptation is to gather them up and burn them. You don’t want sodden leaves on the lawn or borders, but if you heap them up in a pile (don’t add evergreen leaves) and make a chicken-wire frame container to put them in, they will rot down to make a great mulch and save you a fortune come spring for improving soil structure.
Keep outdoor pots protected
Roots from plants in pots can be damaged by frost, so if they’re too big to bring inside, use bubble wrap around them, or hessian, which is a bit more attractive. Gather pots together to give mutual protection, and place near a wall away from sharp winds. Make sure your terracotta pots are truly frost-proof, as many will not be if they’re labelled frost resistant.
Care for your pond
Try to clean out your pond before it gets too cold. It’s best to get rid of any dead plants, foliage and algae, as the debris can produce gases under ice that can be toxic to fish. Fish will not need feeding as much come the winter as they semi-hibernate. If you have been able to net the pond to stop falling leaves, then this will help, but a large pond is hard to net. Give your pump a good clean and raise it higher if you can.
Plant Bulbs for Spring Colour
After the long, dark days of winter, nothing is more uplifting than seeing fresh young growth and flowers popping up through the bare soil. November is the best time to plant tulips to prevent them being infected with fungal disease. They flower better in sunnier sites, but there are so many varieties to choose from there are types for all positions. If you have heavy clay, dig in some coarse grit.
Don’t forget your greens
The vegetable garden is not finished yet. The best thing you can do now is dig over the patch, as it allows any rainwater to filter through and break down clods of soil, improving structure and making it easier to cultivate in the spring. Once done, you can still sow many things to enjoy throughout the winter, such as hardy broad beans and garlic.
Consider hedges and trees
November is a wonderful time to plant trees and hedging plants. The soil still has enough warmth in it to allow them to become well established before winter sets in. Many plants are available as root balls wrapped in hessian and should be planted as soon as they can into well-prepared soil. Remember not to plant trees too deeply – their roots spread outwards, not downwards.
November is the best time to plant bare-root roses, which are cheaper than container grown ones and establish much better. Remember not to allow roots to dry out, and plant deep as swiftly as possible.