I just can’t believe how mild it still is this month, not that I am complaining - it makes working in the garden more pleasant, especially without the hindrance of a jacket.
I must admit I am not a fan of long dark winter evenings, I much prefer pottering around outside, which is almost every night during the summer. So while I’ve got time on my hands, I like to take my time reading through the seed and plant catalogues and preparing my order.
The first order I put in is for my potatoes, as I don’t want to miss out on my favourites Kestrel and Rooster. I have already spotted a few interesting new flower and vegetable seeds, like Carrot Caracas and Hollyhock Halo Mixed, which I’m sure I’ll find room for, along with some old favourites.
I am sure this mild weather will turn soon, so I have already sorted out some lengths of horticultural fleece in readiness for covering any of my frost-tender plants in containers. Speaking of containers, I’ve lifted all of mine up on feet made from blocks of wood or small bricks to keep the drainage holes clear and to allow any excess water to easily drain out of the bottom. Without this, pots sitting directly on a patio can easily get their drainage holes blocked and become waterlogged after a sudden downpour.
Most of my containers and borders have been filled with winter-flowering pansies and polyanthus, these are growing away nicely. Others are planted with a few bulbs, as I do like large-flowered daffodils and dwarf narcissus. Tulip bulbs are another favourite of mine and November is the best month to plant them. Planting now about twice the depth of the bulb will give a longer lasting spring display, and the stunning tulip flowers will come into their own once the narcissus have finished.
The hostas in the garden and containers have now died back and look a bit shabby, so I’ll tidy these up in the coming weeks, marking with a label where each one is, so I don’t dig them up by mistake.
The tuberous begonias I had in my baskets (Apricot Shades) and pots (Non Stop Mocca) this year have been sitting in the greenhouse for about a month and are finally starting to die back and, as the stems and leaves turn yellow and fall away, they are cleaned up. I’ll continue to do this until all the stems have fallen away, when the tubers will be lifted and stored in a dry, frost-free place until they are needed for next year's display.
Earlier this month I had a new path and patio laid around the whole of the house. It looks great and certainly makes clearing the fallen leaves easier. My wife collects these up with a leaf vacuum; she loves this job almost as much as vacuuming indoors! The bags of leaves are then emptied for composting.
Down on the allotment my son Louie and I have been busy clearing away old crops and putting them on the compost heap. I’ve taken down the runner bean canes and put the old stalks on the bonfire. The bottoms of the canes are dipped into a wood preservative to stop them from rotting, as canes are expensive these days. I have also cut the grass paths and edges for (hopefully) the last time this year.
I grow a lot of leeks especially for exhibitions and the few that are left are taking up space on ground that requires winter digging. So I have lifted them and cleared the ground and put them together in a trench at the end of my plot, so I can use them throughout the winter in various meals.
In the next couple of weeks I am going to empty one of my compost bins, as it has rotted down well over the last couple of years. I’ll dig it into the plot over the next few weeks, and hopefully all my winter digging will be finished by Christmas, weather permitting.
Andrew's hostas, yellowing and dying back, ready to be tidied up.
Andrew's exhibition leeks.
The leeks in a trench, ready to eat during winter.