The air is heavy with moisture, skies growing darker earlier and earlier, more than the occasional whiff of a bonfire, fallen leaves heavy with dew and becoming soggy underfoot. Yes, November in all its glory! So, it’s time to give yourself the ultimate pick-me-up, a good few sessions, not in the gym, but in the garden!
Flowers, beds and borders
Pots and planters that contain permanent plantings or good autumn-winter display may need a bit of attention. The coldest weather is a while away still, but there is always plenty of unpredictability and, in cooler parts of the country especially, it’s worth moving containers into more sheltered spots. You could even wrap the pots sides with hessian, bubble-wrap or similar. Also, check that all containers still have good drainage.
Ornamental grasses are a great way to bring texture, colour and movement to beds and borders, but although some look stunning during the winter, others are a mess! Those that look grim can be cut back, just as you would do a herbaceous perennial grown for its flowers. Always make sure that you leave enough old growth in place to protect the plant’s crown from frosts later.
Tulips are best planted this month and, weather permitting, into early winter. But November is the classic time to ensure some of the brightest possible colours in your garden come the spring, so get planting! Beds, borders, tubs, planters – it’s always worth finding space for some tulips.
Fruit and vegetables
As soon as dormant fruit trees and bushes are available, they can be planted bare root. It means you can get the best possible range of varieties by shopping at a specialist fruit nursery – unbeatable, I find! Many supply by mail order, so check out their catalogues and websites to help you make the right choices.
Blackcurrants, gooseberries and redcurrants can be pruned now, if you have not already done so. Make sure that you remove all dead, dying or crossing stems and keep an eye out for and remove any coral spot infections (raised, coral-coloured spots).
Veg that are overwintering may be growing slowly, but they still need a bit of TLC. Check for slugs and snails, and remove any you find. Birds, especially pigeons, are likely to be hungry now and always seem to make a beeline for my overwintering brassicas, such Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Taut netting is something I need to rely on.
Snails start to hibernate as soon as the temperatures drop, so there may already be clusters of them in your garden. Likely places to find them are loose paving, stacked up pots and planters, the areas between a plant and a wall – in fact any sheltered spot. So, time to start rounding them up so that there are fewer around when the spring comes.
Continue collecting up fallen leaves from trees, shrubs and climbers. Most can be made into leaf mould, but it’s best to avoid any leaves that are tough and leathery, or that have obvious signs of disease. Once your leaf mould cage is full, or after every 30cm or so of leaves added, add some lush, green material,
eg. lawn mowings, to increase the moisture and nitrogen content and so speed up the rate of breakdown.
Check arches, arbours, pergolas and other timber structures. Now that the leaves have fallen from many climbers, it is easier to spot any areas of damage.