November is the start of winter for me in the garden. It’s the time of year to tuck all your garden plants up for their winter sleep. Yes, we’ve been getting ready for winter for over a month now, but it is now time for that final little tweak and tuck in.
So let us start with a little to do list.
Leaves, they are still falling. Clear your paths and remove from your pond. Remember to compost, leaf mold is one of the best soil improvers you can use in the garden. Ask any gardener.
Wood ash. Perhaps you celebrated the 5th with a bonfire. If you have lots of wood ash you could spread this thinly around the garden plants and rake in. Be careful around some shrubs as ash is alkaline and plants like Rhodos and Blueberries prefer a more acidic root zone. Add only small amounts to the compost heap, as you don’t want to make that too alkaline either. Don’t use the ash from treated wood.
Mowing the lawn. You’ll be surprised, if November becomes mild the grass will want to be cut. Temperatures around 10 degrees C will cause it to grow. If you do need to mow it, don’t do it in frost and keep the mower set on a higher cut, than you would for the summer.
Start a new compost heap. If you haven’t done this already, start your new heap now. All your winter trimmings and debris can be composted ready to use next year or if it rots quick enough, you might be able to use it in the spring. I like to shred any twiggy bits, I feel it helps to get the rotting down process moving.
Rose pruning can be done now to reduce wind rock. This is when the main stem rocks around at ground level causing all sorts of problems for the plant. Prune now to reduce the amount of wind catching branches. You can then prune to shape the plant up later in February or very early March. Clear away any fallen leaves and debris from under the rose. This will help prevent pests and diseases over wintering and attacking them next year.
Have a quick dig over on your allotment. Dig the soil with a fork turn it over and leave the weather break up those bigger lumps. Letting air into the ground is important, start your digging now and you’ll have less compaction in the spring.
Make sure your tender plants are protected and anything that can be bought inside, is.
Protect outside pots in frost. The ice can crack them and make sure they are lifted off the ground to let the water flow out at the bottom. You can buy little feet or put them on gravel. Drainage is very important at this time of year.
Cover and protect any outside water pipes, frost is on the way.
Now let’s talk about mulching. I’m very much aware of how much I go on about this but I will not apologise. Plant health is so important in fighting off pests, fungus and disease. One way to help the plant maintain its health is to mulch. I can’t think of many plants that don’t like a mulch around the roots. Farm yard manure, leaf mold and compost from your heap are just a few things you can use and now is the time to start.
Mulching helps to protect the root system of your plants, warms the soil up for all the good bacteria to start working, helps retain moisture in the spring and summer and as it rots down over the winter months adds nutrients into the soil.
A couple of things to be aware of when mulching. Don’t put it too close to the trunks of woody trees and shrubs, it can cause the bark to rot, leave a couple of inches space. Another thing to note is that some plants don’t like their roots too deep. Plants like Daphnes and some Iris can still have a light covering but not too deep. If your worried put the mulch near to the plant and capillary action will take the nutrients to it through the winter months.
If I’ve spoken about bulb planting before, sorry I’m going to do it again. If you’re buying bulbs from the shops try and check them before you buy. Make sure the bulbs aren’t dried out and shrivelled and if you see any mould on them don’t buy. Bulbs like Snowdrops, plant into pots, grow on and plant out when they are growing. You could also do this with Snakes Head Fatillary (Fritillaria meleagris), I’ve found they establish better this way. A rough guide when planted they should have roughly twice their depth of soil above them.
The winter bedding is out in Truro, but if you’re thinking of planting out winter bedding yourself, get it done as soon as possible. If you can, plant them in a free draining area. The plants which tolerate the winter don’t like to be waterlogged. Pansies tend to suffer more from block spot and wall flowers just don’t like it at all. Wall flowers are called this because they grow naturally on walls, so don’t let them get soggy bottoms!
I don’t like sprays very much myself, however pansies do benefit from a fungicidal spray at this time of year. Outside is difficult, so be careful, read and thoroughly follow your spray instructions. Get advice on the best sprays to use.
Hardwood cuttings can be done now. You get better results just after leaf fall. Dogwoods, Holly trees and Willows are just a few plants that can be propagated this way.
Still lots to do out there in the garden, so don’t rest up yet. Keep going now and I might let you have Christmas off, but I’m not promising anything.
Enjoy your gardening.