What to do in the garden in NovemBER
For many people, the arrival of the chilly November weather is an invitation to do nothing more than stay indoors and turn up the central heating. However, November really is a key month for getting jobs done in the garden, so grab your coat, put on your boots, and let’s look at some of the jobs you could tackle before talk turns to Santa, turkeys and whether you actually intend to wear that Christmas sweater from Auntie Julie.
Trees and shrubs
Winter can be a hard time for trees and shrubs. Trees have all but dropped their leaves, leaving their branches bare and exposed. If you’re looking to prune your trees back, only get the pruners and loppers out when you’re sure the tree has gone into its winter dormancy period. If you prune too early, you’ll put new growth at risk. Be kind to your trees after pruning by giving them a good dose of fertiliser which will benefit the leaves, rather than the roots. Give the roots an extra boost with some mulch around the base, as this will offer some protection against the winter temperatures and keep moisture loss to a minimum.
If you have any roses, either shrub or bush variety, prune them back by about a third, which will mean they’re less vulnerable to wind rock damage. Remember not to put their dropped leaves into the compost heap, particularly if you know they have black spot or any other sort of disease, for fear of the disease contaminating the rest of your compost.
Perennials, biennials and annuals
Most of the perennials we keep in our gardens can withstand a bit of cold and frost, be more cautious with evergreens and shrubs, which can suffer real damage from ground frosts. Delicate fuchsias are a prime example. A couple of inches of a thick mulch such as straw or wood chip placed around their bases will look after roots and crowns.
It might be tempting to take your perennials right back during your end of season clear out. However, before you start snipping, take the time to double-check that it isn’t a plant which is going to have a comeback or provide some sort of benefit. The larger heads of stonecrops like sedum, prickly teasels and eryngium tops can provide a bit of an unusual form to otherwise empty beds, as well as giving some cover for insects and seeds for birds to nibble.
Vegetables and fruit
If you’re lucky enough to have had success with tropical plants like bananas, they won’t appreciate the cold winter conditions. You’ll need to protect them from gales, frosts and the cold rain. The ideal way is obviously to move them into a greenhouse, but if you don’t have access to a greenhouse or sheltered location, get them wrapped up in fleece or bubble wrap.
Fruit trees of all description can be pruned back, with the exception of trees producing stoned fruits. These sorts of trees react to winter by sucking their sap back into the central core of the tree, and if an exposed, pruned tree attempts to suck in sap which has been contaminated by spores in the air, the tree will carry that infection back into itself.
Brassicas like sprouts and cauliflower become the target of hungry pigeons who have exhausted the farmers’ fields. The best way to protect them is with good old-fashioned netting.
Your lawn’s active period is over now, and it’s entering its hibernation period. That means that it’s down to you to look after it. If it gets damaged, it won’t repair itself, so try to keep people and pets off the grass. Mowing is not recommended, as the blades of grass will provide a nice blanket for the soil. Perhaps now is the time to get the lawnmower serviced instead?
One of the worst enemies of the winter lawn continues to be those troublesome fallen leaves. Leaves will sit on top of your lawn, stopping light and nutrients getting to the soil like a barrier. Dampness will build up amongst the leaves, preventing drainage and encouraging algae. A bed of leaves also provides a nice home for garden enemies like slugs and snails, so remove the leaves and rescue your garden from these unwanted invaders.
Other bits and bobs
Now that the plants have died back, it’s time to check on your hard landscaping features, ensuring that they’re ready for another year in the garden. Sometimes a quick repair or a bit of maintenance will get them back into perfect condition. If not, you can look into replacing them, or maybe ask Santa to bring you some replacements next month.
Trellising, canes and stakes, which are staying in position to help young trees, tall plants and climbers should be securely positioned to survive the winter gusts. If there are plants attached to them, make sure that they’re well attached.
Larger structures like pergolas, fences and arches should be inspected, as they could potentially cause a lot of damage to your garden if they collapse under the weight of snow or in strong winds. Tighten screws or bolts, or disassemble anything which may not last the winter months.
Any plants staying in pots over the winter should have their pots placed on to plant feet. Not only will this prevent waterlogging, it will allow fresh air to circulate around the pot and provide oxygen for the roots.
With temperatures falling, now is the time to put out bird food to encourage birds into your garden. They’ll thank you by gobbling up the insects, which are determined to damage your plants, and setting up home for year-round protection.
With the garden looking more like a blank canvas, it’s a great time to think about what you’ll be growing next year. It may seem a little early, but advance planning will give you time to research and order the plants you want to try.
A great way to start your planting for 2017 is with tulip bulbs, which will make their appearance in spring. You can get away with planting tulip bulbs until the end of November, unlike many other types of bulbs which must be planted while there’s still some residual heat in the soil from summer. The cold winter rain and a heavy, claggy soil is a slow killer for many bulbs, so act quickly.
Winter may be coming, but there’s still plenty of hours of daylight for you to make the difference to your garden, making you the gardening envy of all your neighbours and friends when the sun finally makes an appearance in the spring.