Between October’s mellow ambience and the long nights of December’s holiday period, November has much to offer the gardener. The mix of gloomy greys, crispy frosts and low sunshine with unexpected warmth offer plenty of opportunities to finish those year-end tasks and plan for the new season.
October’s leaf fall and the last damp, rather sad looking remains in the borders need clearing. This will reduce pest and lurking fungal diseases as well as present a neat, tidy picture from the windows when it is too cold for most to venture out.
Have an eye, however, for wildlife and visually attractive plants that still have something to contribute to the frosty views. Seed heads, grasses and evergreens come into their own when the garden is divested of its summer glory and provide shelter for the tireless insect life that contributes to the health of the garden’s eco-system. So resist the urge to be too tidy and leave things of value to last until the new season.
November is a good time to review soil health, a critical factor for a glorious garden. Treat appropriately with compost, organic material and relevant soil improvers that are suited to your type of soil. Some robust digging will work off a few pounds as well as allow you to steal a march on the Spring with this task under your belt. The frosts will do their bit to help break up the soil and finish the job.
Whilst attending to this basic but absolutely vital investment in your plot, check newly planted specimens and delicate plants that are to remain in situ for the winter. These should be mulched with a decent thickness of appropriate material, for example leaf mould, bark or hard mulch such as gravel. Organic mulches contribute nutrients as well as protect plants from frost damage which otherwise breaks the roots and exposes the delicate parts of the plant.
Some plants need protecting if they are not to be removed to shelter for the winter so these should be wrapped in materials such as horticultural fleece, straw or hessian. Bubble wrap is effective but can cause rotting as water cannot escape. Monitor wrapped plants and give them some air if it is a nice day. For taller plants, stake them to protect against wind-rock which can catch the upper parts of the plant and pull its roots away from a sound connection with the soil.
It seems a statement of the obvious but even in winter and after seemingly endless rainy days, plants need water, albeit a reduced amount. This is especially so if they are in pots sheltered in the lee of a wall, so do check that nothing has dried out.
Take a look at the other big contributor to the garden; the lawn. Whether yours is manicured perfection or a laid-back, daisy sprinkled, family worn green patch with a few divots, all lawns benefit from winter care. Just when you think you can put the mower away, the often mild autumn weather always seems to bring about yet more growth for that last cut. Try to avoid frosty weather and pick a dry moment if it is absolutely necessary. Keep it free of leaves and trampling during the winter months to give the grass time to recover.