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Gardening In November

Autumn has set in and it’s getting colder, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from your garden. There are still plenty of things you can do to prepare for winter and make gardening in springtime easier, and you’ll thank yourself for it later.

Tidying up

Leaves and other debris around plants will invite pests and disease, and slugs and snails love to hide under leaves, so give your garden a good clear up. Fallen leaves prevent light and air from getting to plants and grass, so don’t leave it too long before you collect them. Once you have collected leaves, instead of adding them to the compost heap you can use them for leaf mould. Make a frame out of chicken wire and wood to place your leaves in, or dampen them and put them in black bin liners with air holes. Leaf mould takes a year to mature, or two years if they are oak leaves. Don’t use rose leaves, as they can carry infection. Leaf mould is a great free substitute for peat, and can be used as a top dressing for woodland plants. Cut back brown, tired looking plants but leave some plants that still have some colour to give a little interest to your garden over winter. These will also act as shelter for wildlife that you’d like to have around, such as ladybirds, which will eat aphids for you. It’s also a good time to clear out your greenhouse. Wash pots and trays, mend any broken tools, and throw away anything you can’t use. Wash the windows to let in as much light as possible during winter, and disinfect benches and fixtures, hosing them down well. Clearing out your greenhouse will prevent pests from hibernating there, and once you have removed the plants you can also fumigate it with a sulphur candle.

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Preparing for winter

Drain and lag standpipes, outdoor taps and water pumps in case of frost. You may also want to insulate taps with bubble wrap. Frost on the ground can kill some perennial plants such as shrubs and evergreens. Place two inches of mulch around the bases to protect the roots – this can be straw or woodchip. Tender plants such as fuchsia and geraniums need to be brought into the greenhouse so they are not damaged by frost, and perennials such as dahlias should be moved into a cool greenhouse or garage and watered less to bring on a state of semi dormancy. Secure climbers, small trees and tall plants to fixings such as trellising and canes. You should also check that fences, arches and other structures are secure, and repair or replace them if they are not.

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What to plant

Before planting, clear away weeds such as dandelions and bindweed and remove their roots. November is a good time for planting garlic, onions, broad beans, and soft fruit such as raspberries. You can also use this time to plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs, hedges, bushes and roses. Be sure to protect them against frost and wind if they are exposed. Plant flowers such as daffodils, tulips and crocus now for a colourful garden next spring.

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Looking after plants

Plants still need watering in winter months, but be sure not to overwater them – the soil should be slightly damp. If it snows, clear it away so that plants are not damaged by the weight. You should also consider your indoor plants, as central heating can lead to brown leaves and leaf drops, so keep an eye on room temperatures and reduce watering.

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Thinking ahead

Now is the time to make your spring jobs easier. Add a layer of organic matter such as compost, manure and leaf mould and dig it in so it is below the surface. This will make digging and planting easier next year. The earlier you start digging in winter, the more the rain, snow and frost will break down the soil. It is also a good time to get your lawnmower cleaned and serviced, as you will not have much mowing to do in the winter when grass growth slows down.

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With all these jobs tackled your garden should be fully winter proof with fruit, vegetables and flowers planted, protected and ready to flourish in spring.