I know I said the nights were getting chillier in October, but we are definitely on the countdown to winter now. We’ve had a couple of frosts already and there is less colour everywhere, with the exception of a few hardy souls like my beautiful Osteospermum (see above). November in the garden heralds the onset of putting everything to bed, and it’s a very busy time.
Unlike most spring bulbs which are usually planted in September or October, tulip bulbs really need to be planted after a few frosts. The bulbs can be prone to fungal disease so waiting until late November, or even December, should ensure they grow healthily. I was lucky enough to win a GeeTee competition for some beautiful Angelique tulip bulbs recently and now I need to decide the best place to plant them to show them off.
Dahlias are tender perennials and need some protection over winter. Received wisdom says, once you’ve had the first frost and the foliage has blackened, you should cut them back until you have around four inches of stem left. Then lift the tubers, shake off all the earth, and put them into cool, dry storage for the winter.
That said, I’ve never bothered to lift mine, I just mulch heavily (see next paragraph) and that seems to work. I know that, even if I lose some plants (I haven’t yet!) I can always buy some new tubers to grow again in the Spring.
Weed, feed, and mulch
Now’s the time to start weeding, feeding, and mulching any vegetable beds that aren’t growing winter crops, or flower beds that have finished flowering. The soil in these beds will be lacking in nutrients after working hard all year. Once you’ve cleared all the dead or dying plants and weeds, scatter and dig in some chicken manure pellets or another such fertiliser. You’ll be giving any new seeds or plants next year a really good head start.
Word of warning, unsurprisingly, chicken manure pellets STINK so this is one of the reasons why you mulch on top. (Mulch could be compost or leaf mould (from all those leaves you may have bagged up last year). Mulch can also be used to protect new plants, left in the ground dahlia tubers, or your lovely spring bulbs from frosts. I also have high hopes that the smell of dried chicken s**t this year will help deter our three cats from using my newly dug over beds as their luxury toilets – fingers crossed.
Bring in tender plants
If you’ve cleared out and cleaned up your greenhouse then you’ll have a place to put your tender plants that won’t survive Winter left outside. Pelargoniums (geraniums) and other potted plants will overwinter quite happily under cover in a frost free greenhouse. If their leaves blacken, don’t worry, they’ll recover when the weather warms up. If you don’t have a greenhouse then a sheltered porch or cool conservatory will be fine too.
November is really your last chance to plant any new plants: bare root roses, fruit trees, and shrubs. The soil is still warm so they have a good chance to get their roots down and settle in before the ground hardens up with the winter frosts.
Clean and sharpen tools
This is such an important job. You wouldn’t put your cutlery away without cleaning it, would you? The same applies to your secateurs, loppers, spades, trowels, and other garden tools. Pruning needs clean and sharp tools to avoid bruising or otherwise harming the plant. And it’s very difficult to dig a hole with a dirty, blunt spade. Brillo pads or wire wool make excellent cleaners. After you’ve cleaned and sharpened your tools it’s a good idea to give them a light spray of lubricant such as WD40 to prevent any rust forming over Winter.
So, these are my November garden jobs. What will you be doing? 🙂