You may think that November is a month of rest in the garden but there is still plenty to do. Mainly it is cleaning up and preparing for the ravages of winter. If the last two years are becoming a general trend then the old adage is very true “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Any prevention of disease and protection against frost and wind will save a lot of damage as well as the cost in time and money to replace and repair come springtime. This is true not just for plants but also for sheds, fences, outdoor furniture and ornaments.
If you did everything last month then there is not a lot to do in November. Chances are there are still unfinished jobs so, finish planting any bulbs, dividing perennials if the soil is not too wet and clean up the summer bedding. Move any frost tender container plants indoors or surround them in bubble wrap or in a mesh frame with straw stuffed around. Doing likewise to ceramic and clay pots as well as lifting them off the ground onto some pieces of wood will prevent them cracking Put a mulch of well rotted manure around perennials. This will help suppress weeds and enrich the soil.
(Want to take root cuttings? Read online version) Feeling a little adventurous? Try increasing your stock of plants by taking root cuttings. Alpines such as geranium, primula denticulata, verbiscum or morisia; herbaceous plants acanthus, anchusa, phlox, statice or oriental poppies and shrubs rubus, daphne and clerodendrum are just some of the ones that take well with this method. Firstly dig up a healthy plant and remove any soil from the roots. Wash any remaining soil under a tap being careful not to damage the roots. Using a sharp knife cut off pieces of new root growth 5-15cm long. Cut the top part square and the bottom at a slope. Plant these upright into a mixture of equal parts grit and potting compost. The top should be just below the surface. Put a layer of grit on top of this. Water well, label and place in a cool place indoors or in a cold frame.
Growth of grass will have slowed down considerably as it only grows if the temperature is over 5°C. If the ground is soaking you can cause more damage by walking on it so leave any jobs for a dry period. Trim grass lightly if it gets too long. Continue to clear off any leaves and rake out moss if it is a problem. It is of very little use to apply any feed or weed during the wet and cold. If you are putting away the lawnmower for the winter, drain any petrol from the tank and give it a clean-up. Wipe metal parts with an oily cloth to help prevent any rust building up.
Continue with any planting of deciduous shrubs both bare rooted and potted. Evergreens are best left until Spring unless you can provide protection, as winds will rock them about and cause damage. Trim any deciduous hedges to keep them looking neat over winter. Examine all shrubs for any die-back or rot, cut them out so that they won’t spread and dispose of the clippings. Ties should be adjusted so they are not too loose or tight and stakes made firm. Clay and ceramic pots should be protected as mentioned above.
Fruit & Veg
Thoughts really are now starting to turn to next year’s growing. If you are planning to cover down your beds for the winter (which will keep the worst of the bad weather off them, suppress weeds and prevent the rain from leaching nutrients from the soil), you need to get working on it. It’s also a good time to prepare new ground for spring. Buy yourself a good spade. Or alternatively try cutting back the grass, then cover the area with about five layers of newspaper and then a layer of compost. Next Spring you should be able to dig straight into this new patch and prepare it for planting. Start investigating seed catalogues for next year.
To do List
• ‘Earth up’ vegetables that will be buffeted by the winds and storms over the winter such as cabbage, cauliflower and particularly Brussels sprouts.
• Tie Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli to canes and apply mulch. Continue to tidy up beds, removing crops, digging in green manures etc.
• Divide up your rhubarb if you want to propagate and cover it with a thick mulch of manure.
• If you grow perennial herbs outside, it’s a good idea to move them to a sheltered spot.
• Continue to weed ground dug over since a crop has been removed – they say “one years seeding is seven years a weeding”!
• Prune apple trees – you are aiming for a goblet- shaped open tree. Prune any crossed and damaged branches, and those that are growing in towards the centre of the tree. The key is to improve circulation of air around the tree. Don’t over prune as this will mean much leafy growth next year and little fruit.
• Mulch raspberries, loganberry and tayberry plants if you haven’t already done so.
• Take cuttings of currant bushes from current season’s wood. Cutting should be 25cm long.
Sowing Seeds and Planting Out
As per last month’s calendar you can sow broad beans outside now for an early crop next spring. It’s important to use over-winter varieties such as ‘Aquadulce’. To avoid broad beans seeds rotting before germination, make small newspaper cups and germinate them indoors first. The polytunnel/greenhouse has its own microclimate – continue to sow carrots, red cabbage, rocket, mixed salad leaves, lambs lettuce, perpetual spinach. Next summer’s garlic does best if it’s planted before Christmas – plant outdoors in well prepared soil in a sunny spot. Some varieties of onion seeds and sets can over-winter and will be ready to harvest in early summer. Again choose a well drained soil, otherwise they will rot. Keep an eye on them for frost heave.
Harvesting – what’s in season?
Early frosts can kill off tender vegetables but you can continue to harvest perpetual spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, swede, parsnips, apples, pears. Start harvesting leeks (very tasty if cut really fine and sautéed in some butter), winter cabbage, kale, artichokes, Brussels sprouts. It’s now time to lift carrots and turnips or at least cover them with a good layer of straw to keep them warm.
Testing pH of Soil
The pH of soil lets you know how acid or alkaline it is and is measured on a scale of 1-14 (1 being the most acid and 14 the most alkaline). This is useful to gardeners because most plants like to grow on in soil that is neutral pH7 or on the acid side pH6. Buy a kit from your local garden centre and follow the simple instruction to give you a good result. To raise the pH add garden lime. To lower it add gypsum.
Adding plenty of organic matter will always 59 bring soil nearer to neutral but do not add it at the same time as the lime.